'Nasty' Martinez easing Cards' concerns

No. 5 starter cruises through five scoreless innings

'Nasty' Martinez easing Cards' concerns

JUPITER, Fla. -- With an outing Wednesday that his manager described as effortless, Carlos Martinez continues to erase any potential lingering concern that the shoulder problems which hindered the Cardinals' right-hander last season could surface again.

After combining to throw 4 2/3 innings in his first two outings, Martinez was efficient enough to finish five in a 4-1 victory over the Marlins. He wrapped up his afternoon at 67 pitches, 45 of which were strikes.

Spring: Tickets | Ballpark | 40-man roster | NRIs

"He was nasty," Mike Matheny said of Martinez. "Every pitch he had today looked sharp. He's in terrific shape, so it doesn't look like he's laboring. The ball jumps without much work."

Martinez, who added noticeable strength over the winter, is quickly checking off the boxes he had hoped to this spring. Those items included curtailing his emotions for better focus, featuring his changeup more frequently against right-handed batters and being more controlled in the finish of his delivery so that he could be in optimal fielding position.

Martinez saw payoff in the latter in the second inning, when he was able to leap and snag a chopper from J.T. Realmuto and throw him out to end the frame.

Martinez's quick reaction

"I want to be able to help myself with comebackers," Martinez said. "Today it worked. I'm doing a pretty good job with it."

Martinez lines up to open the season as the fifth starter, which would put his season debut in Atlanta on April 9. Between now and then, he'll make one more spring start and pitch in a simulated or Minor League game.

Worth noting

Brayan Pena played in a Minor League game Wednesday so he could get some work at first base. Pena, who will serve as the Cardinals' backup catcher, has started 45 games at first base in his career, but it's unlikely that he'll be used much there during the season. Asked how his work went, Pena smirked and responded: "Gold Glove."

Tommy Pham, who is experimenting with two sets of contacts, logged extra at-bats Wednesday by facing Tim Cooney in live batting practice and playing in a Minor League game. He went deep off Cooney and tallied six at-bats. He hit one ball off the wall and had another pair of line-drive hits.

• The Cardinals announced that they will release approximately 12,000 tickets to their April 18-20 and May 23-25 home games against the Cubs. The tickets will be available at cardinals.com/mcdonalds beginning at 10 a.m. CT on Thursday.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.