Two-time All-Star Carlos Martinez makes his first start in almost two years on Tuesday night when the St. Louis Cardinals kick off a seven-game road trip against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis.
The 28-year-old right-hander last started a game on July 30, 2018, when he went 4 2/3 innings against Colorado before going on the injured list due to right shoulder discomfort. He spent the rest of the season, as well as the entire 2019 campaign, in the bullpen to limit the wear and tear on the shoulder.
Martinez, who was selected to the 2015 and 2017 All-Star Games as a starter, pitched just 48 1/3 innings last season but still compiled a 4-2 record and 3.17 ERA to go along with 24 saves. He allowed just 39 hits and 18 walks while striking out 53.
Martinez had a procedure done on his right shoulder after the 2019 season and then went on an off season conditioning regimen focused on regaining a starting role. He was rewarded with the No. 5 spot in the rotation after allowing two hits and one run in four innings in a 6-3 exhibition victory over Kansas City on Wednesday
"I'm really happy because I came from the bottom," Martinez told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I was trying to be strong, strong with my body, and forget about the last two seasons when I got hurt and give my focus on my business, and focus on my opportunity again."
When healthy, few pitchers throw as hard as Martinez, who averaged 95.8 mph with his fastball and 86.1 mph with his slider last season. His final pitch against the Royals was a sinker clocked at 94.1 mph.
Martinez will be opposed by veteran right-hander Homer Bailey, making his Minnesota debut.
Bailey, who split last season between Kansas City and Oakland and finished with a 13-9 record and a 4.57 ERA, will be making his 29th career start against St. Louis. He is just 6-16 with a 5.80 ERA lifetime against the Cards and lost his only start against them in 2019, allowing five runs on four hits, including homers by Matt Carpenter and Marcell Ozuna, in 1 2/3 innings of a 10-3 setback while he was with the Royals.
The Twins, who like St. Louis won two of their first three games to open the season, will begin an eight-game homestand. Minnesota capped its season-opening series with a 14-2 victory over the White Sox in Chicago on Sunday afternoon with designated hitter Nelson Cruz clubbing two homers and two doubles and driving in seven runs while outfielder Jake Cave added a first-inning grand slam.
The 40-year-old Cruz, who hit 41 home runs and had 108 RBIs in only 120 games last season, is batting .538 with three homers and 10 RBIs after three games this season. He joined Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson to become just the second player in American League history to have a two-double, two-homer game after his 40th birthday.
"For a lot of people, it's kind of a career day, the kind of day you'd probably never forget," said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. "Maybe Nelson remembers all of them, but I don't know if that's possible. He has a lot of games where he's just extraordinarily impressive."
Martinez will be making his third career start against the Twins. He is 0-2 with a 2.31 ERA including 0-1 with a 1.35 ERA at Target Field, allowing two runs on five hits over 6 2/3 innings in a 3-1 loss in 2015.