Carlos Martinez (martica04)
Carlos Ernesto Martinez
known as Carlos Matias prior to 2011
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 185 lb.
Carlos Martinez was considered one of the top young pitchers in the majors when he made his debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013. He was previously known as Carlos Matias. He was originally signed by the Boston Red Sox under that name in 2009, but the contract was voided by Major League Baseball before he could play for the Red Sox, because of concerns over his true identity and birth documents. He was suspended for a year and when the delay ended, signed with the Cardinals in April of 2010. The source of the problem was that he was born in a rural area of Puerto Plata province in the Dominican Republic, where record-keeping is poor; his mother died when he was young and he was brought up by an uncle whose last name was Matias, hence the confusion. His place of birth, Colinas del Sur, simply refers to a district in his native province and not to an actual settlement.
Carlos made his professional debut at age 18, pitching for the DSL Cardinals in 2010. He went 3-2 in 12 starts, dominating opponents with an 0.76 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 59 innings. He led the Dominican Summer League in ERA (.10 ahead of runner-up Henry Perez), lowest opponent average (.144), WHIP (.71, tied with Jayson Aquino) and strikeouts per 9 innings. Baseball America listed him as the Cards' #3 prospect. That earned him a ticket to the United States, and he started the 2011 season in full-season A ball, playing for the Quad Cities River Bandits of the Midwest League; this was already a huge leap for a young pitcher from the Dominican Republic, as the Rookie-level Appalachian League would have been a more common next destination. Carlos did extremely well against Midwest League batters though, putting up a 2.33 ERA over his first 8 starts, with 50 strikeouts over 38 2/3 innings, to earn a promotion to the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League. He vaulted so far up the prospect rankings that he was selected as one of two Cardinal minor leaguers to play in the 2011 Futures Game. He pitched the 4th inning for the World team. He struck out Paul Goldschmidt to open the inning, hit Devin Mesoraco with a pitch, and then induced Will Middlebrooks to hit into a double play grounder to end the frame. He hit 98 mph on the radar gun during the outing, showing the sort of stuff that makes scouts salivate. He was working on developing a change-up to complement his outstanding fastball. Martinez did not pitch as well after the Futures Game, finishing at 3-3, 5.78 for Palm Beach, for a combined pitching line of 6-5, 3.93 in 18 starts. Baseball America rated him as having the top fastball in both the FSL and MWL. They listed him as the 6th-best prospect in the FSL, after Shelby Miller, Matt Harvey, Hak-ju Lee, Trevor May and Alex Colome, as well as the 27th-best prospect in baseball, second to Miller in the Cards chain.
In 2012, Martinez was back at Palm Beach to start the year, and put up an ERA of 3.00 with a 2-2 record in 7 starts. He was then promoted to the Springfield Cardinals of the Texas League, where he was 4-3, 2.90 in 15 games. Overall, he pitched 22 games, with a record of 6-5, 2.93, to confirm his status as a top prospect. After the season, Baseball America listed him at #38 on its top 100 prospects list and third among Cardinals minor leaguers after Oscar Taveras and Miller. They ranked his fastball as the best in the FSL and put him down as the circuit's 6th-best prospect, behind position players Jurickson Profar, Taveras, Wil Myers, Mike Olt and Jonathan Singleton.
He was back at Springfield to begin the 2013 season and picked up a win in his first three starts, during which his ERA was 2.31 and he had a 9/1 K/W ratio in 11 2/3 innings. He had missed all of spring training because of trouble in obtaining a visa, which explains why he had pitched so little when called up to St. Louis on May 3rd to replace the struggling Mitchell Boggs. Although he had been a starter throughout his minor league career, the Cardinals were looking to him as a reliever and it is in that role that he made his debut on the day of his call-up, pitching a scoreless 7th inning in relief of another top prospect, Miller, with the Cardinals holding a 6-1 lead over the Milwaukee Brewers. He allowed a single to the first batter he faced, Yuniesky Betancourt, but the induced pinch-hitter Logan Schafer to hit into a double play and Norichika Aoki to ground out to end the inning before being replaced by pinch-hitter Ty Wigginton. He made only 1 start among his 21 appearances for the Cards, going 2-1, 5.08 with 1 save and pitching 28 1/3 innings, In spite of his relatively high regular season ERA, manager Mike Matheny made him a mainstay of his bullpen during the postseason and he appeared in 12 games over three rounds, including 5 World Series contests against the Boston Red Sox. he had a 3.55 ERA in 12 2/3 innings as a set-up man for closer Trevor Rosenthal, but was charged with a 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 3 of the Division Series.
While there was some thought of his becoming a starter in 2014, he again pitched largely out of the bullpen while spending a full season in St. Louis. he did make 7 starts in 57 appearances, logging 57 1/3 innings with a record of 2-4, 4.03 and 1 save. He showed some dominant stuff at times, striking out 84 batters. He was again a key bullpen performer in the postseason, making four appearances in two rounds of action, and giving up 1 run in 4 innings in 4 games. After the Cardinals were eliminated in the NLCS, he was shaken by the death of teammate Oscar Taveras, who was a very close friend, the victim of a car accident in his native Dominican Republic while the World Series were still in progress.
In 2015, he made the long-anticipated move to the starting rotation and got off to a solid start, with a 4-2, 3.54 record over his first 9 starts, helping the Cardinals to get off to the best start in the majors. On May 31st, he made his best start thus far as he pitched seven innings of one-hit ball in defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 3-1. He dedicated his performance to his fallen friend Taveras, whose number 18 he had elected to wear that year, as it came on the first anniversary of the top prospect's major league debut with his family present in St. Louis. He was 10-3, 2.52 over the first half and won the Final Man Vote to make the All-Star team for the first time. He was not used in the game, then unexpectedly made his first appearance of the second half as a reliever on July 19th, when the Cards and New York Mets played a game that stretched deep into extra innings. He came in in the 15th inning with the score tied, 1-1, and pitched three scoreless innings before the Mets touched him for a pair of runs in the 18th to hand him a loss. In a very bad development for the Cards, he made just seven pitches before coming out of a start against the Milwaukee Brewers on September 25th, after which the team announced he was being shut down for the remainder of the season because of a shoulder strain, thus missing the postseason as well. He finished the year at 14-7, 3.01 in 31 games and 179 2/3 innings. His inability to pitch in the postseason was a key factor in the Cardinals' early exit from the playoffs after putting up the best record in the major leagues during the regular season.
Martinez started the 2016 strong, going 4-1, 2.60 in his first five starts, but on May 6th, he had to leave a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 4th inning because of fatigue, raising new concerns about his health. On August 29th, he set a personal best by striking out 13 batters (against only one walk) in 6 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers; he left with a 3-1 lead, but the bullpen was unable to hold it before St. Louis eventually came back to win, 6-5. He finished the year at 16-9, 3.04, allowing only 169 hits in 195 1/3 innings while striking out 174 batters. Now established as the team's ace, on February 2, 2017 he signed a five-year contract extension worth $51 million. He was the Cardinals' opening day starter on April 2nd, facing the World Champion Chicago Cubs. He had a very strong performance, throwing 7 1/3 scoreless innings with no walks and 10 strikeouts, but ended up with a no-decision. On April 15th, facing the New York Yankees however, he did something not seen with the Cards since the days of the aptly-named Wild Bill Hallahan in 1930, namely walk 8 batters and strike out 11 in one game. He also threw a wild pitch and made a wild throw to first base, resulting in an error, all that in 5 1/3 innings. In the majors, one had to go back to a Randy Johnson start in 1993 to find a pitcher with that many walks and strikeouts in the same game. He was charged with his team's 3-2 loss. On June 11th, however, he was at his best as he recorded the first shutout and complete game of his career, blanking the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-0, giving up 4 hits and 1 walk and striking out 11. He had another shutout on September 4th, when he defeated the San Diego Padres, 2-0, on a three-hitter during which he struck out 10 batters. He finished the year at 12-11, 3.64, having been named to the All-Star team for the second time.
He started out well in 2018 as he went 6-5 with an excellent 3.08 ERA in 16 first-half starts. However, the Cardinals felt they were strong on the starting side of the pitching staff, with some young arms ready to contribute at the major league level, but not so much in the bullpen, and decided to return Carlos to the bullpen. Thus, after just 2 starts after the All-Star break, he made his remaining 15 appearances out of the bullpen, collecting 5 saves. His stats as a reliever were quite good, as he went 2-0 with an ERA of 1.47 and over 1 strikeout per inning (although he walked 11 in 18 1/3 innings). The bigger question was whether he was more valuable in this role for the Cards. In any case, he was a full-time reliever in 2019, after missing the first six weeks of the season. He posted good number again, going 4-2, with 24 saves and a 3.17 ERA in 48 games. he struck out 53 batters in 48 1/3 innings, against 18 walks. The Cardinals returned to the postseason for the first time since 2015, and he made 4 appearances in the two rounds in which the Cardinals appeared, going 1-1 with no saves and 6 runs allowed in 3 2/3 innings. But in 2020, he was back in the starting rotation, and he was hit very hard, to the tune of a 9.90 ERA in 5 starts, totaling 20 innings. He ended 0-3 and was left off the postseason roster.
Following the 2020 season, he was caught red-handed breaking COVID-19 health and safety protocols while participating in the filming of a music video in the Dominican Republic. This broke local regulations and he was facing legal consequences, likely a hefty fine.
- 2-time NL All-Star (2015 & 2017)
- NL Complete Games Leader (2017)
- NL Shutouts Leader (2017)
- 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (2016)
- 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (2017)
- 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 1 (2017)
- Carlos Martinez: "Carlos Martinez: Me in Real Life", mlb.com, June 30, 2017. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "After loss of 'brother,' Carlos Martinez maturing into ace for Cardinals", USA Today Sports, August 31, 2015.