JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — The health of Carlos Martinez’s shoulder is even more important for the St. Louis Cardinals now that Miles Mikolas will miss the first few weeks of the season because of an inflamed flexor tendon.
Shoulder weakness last spring training following off-season surgery prompted the Cardinals to shift Martinez to the bullpen. He eventually replaced injured Jordan Hicks as closer, saving 24 games in 27 chances.
“We’re looking for consistency in how he’s doing, how he’s recovering,” St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said. “That a big thing for Carlos, making sure the strength is there.”
An All-Star in 2015 and 2017, Martinez considers himself a starting pitcher.
“I feel stronger,” said Martinez, who lost 15 pounds during the off-season. “The day after I throw I don’t feel tired.”
“This time last year he wasn’t in as good a spot from a throwing standpoint and being able to compete, but he’s really done everything he needs to do to set himself up for success, to have that opportunity to compete as a starter,” Shildt said.
An All-Star in 2018, Mikolas, a 2018 All-Star, received a platelet-rich plasma injection on Tuesday and isn’t expected to throw off a mound for three-to-four weeks.
Other rotation possibilities include Kwang-Hyun Kim, former top prospect Alex Reyes, relievers John Gant, Giovanny Gallegos and Ryan Helsley, and current prospects Daniel Ponce de Leon and Austin Gomber.
“Carlos, he knows what he’s competing for,” Shildt said. “I don’t really feel the need to have any conversations with him, or any of the other guys.”
Martinez and Helsey are candidates to close in the absence of Hicks, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery on June 26 and is not expected back until the second half of the season.