JUPITER, Fla. (AP) Sixty times last season as Washingtons pitching coach, Mike Maddux enjoyed a front-row seat for two of the best pitchers in baseball, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
Now, in his first spring as the Cardinals pitching coach, Maddux sees a young pitcher ready to join upper echelon on starters.
Its his job to get Carlos Martinez there.
Stuff-wise, hes right on that level, Maddux said. His ball moves more than I thought. A lot of movement. A ton of movement. And it comes out easy. Good short stroke. I didnt even really realize that.
Martinez expected ascension to ace level stumbled amid mixed results last season. His 12 wins tied Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright for the Cardinals team high. Among St. Louis starters, only the now departed Lance Lynn held an ERA lower than Martinezs 3.64 mark.
Those 12 wins were his lowest in three years four fewer than the year prior and the 11 losses were the most in his career.
The 26-year-old Martinez eclipsed the 200-inning mark for the first time in his career, and started at least 29 games for the third consecutive year, earning his second All-Star nod.
Last year was a good year for me, Martinez said. I want to be better this year. Weve got a better team this year. Weve need more concentration this year. I think we can make the playoffs.
Concentration, preparation and even emotional stability, thats where Maddux becomes part of the solution.
Thats probably the thing Im most excited about with Mike Maddux here is just kind of helping him understand, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. To me its the preparation and its the consistency. The fact that Mikes had some of these high level, front-line-in-the-league kind of starters and a brother in the Hall of Fame, I know Carlos antennae is up.
Sporting a triple-digit fastball complemented by a devastating slider when he arrived in the majors as a 21-year-old in 2013, Martinezs raw ability has never been in question.
A lack of control and too much of a reliance on strikeouts kept him from pitching deep into games.
All of the sudden hes at 100 pitches and can hardly get through five innings, Matheny said. He put some movement on the ball. He still had high velocity but he was figuring out how to pitch and how to be efficient, and how to use movement plus use that velocity, and it took him to completely another level.
Martinez tossed two complete game shutouts last season, tying him with three other pitchers including Scherzer for the most complete games in the National League.
He struck out three batters for every one he walked.
Im going to continue to say he needs to be one of the best pitchers in the league with what he has, Matheny said. Thats not pressure, thats just analyzing what he has. Its very unique. How can we help him get to that next level?
The jump to another level takes its next step on Saturday when Martinez takes the mound against the New York Mets for his first spring start.
That appearance puts Martinez on a track to make his second consecutive Cardinals opening day start.
I cant really put a limit on him, Maddux said. I would put a floor on him, that he should be better every game because hes smarter because he learned something in his last game. So well just keep building take a step every time. Hes got to take a pretty good stairway to heaven there.
WebReadyTM Powered by WireReady® NSI