JUPITER, Florida — Before spring training, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny asked pitcher Carlos Martinez to work on controlling his emotions.
Martinez took that advice, maybe even too far.
When Matheny told the Martinez that he'd won the job as the fifth starter for the Cardinals, the 23-year-old right-hander barely reacted.
"It kind of backfired when I told him the news because I didn't get a whole lot," Matheny said Monday. "He's working on it, see."
After failing to see the expected joy from Martinez, Matheny joked that the Cardinals could still make other arrangements.
"He calls me Papi, and he said, 'No, Papi, that's my dream,'" Matheny said.
Martinez, Jaime Garcia and Marco Gonzales had been competing for the final starting spot. Garcia was put on the 15-day disabled list because of soreness in his surgically repaired left shoulder.
Martinez went 2-4 with a 4.03 ERA in 57 games for the NL Central champions last year. The right-hander made seven starts.
Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, John Lackey and Michael Wacha are the other starters for St. Louis. The Cardinals play in the major league opener on Sunday night at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs, and Matheny has yet to announce the order of their appearance.
Martinez lost a similar battle last spring to Joe Kelly despite having better spring training numbers.
This spring, Martinez has struck out 16 in 16 innings while posting a 3.94 ERA. Gonzales allowed only two earned runs in 17 1-3 innings.
"It just came down to what we believe is going to be best for our club right now and that will be Carlos getting the opportunity to start and Marco getting ready," Matheny said.
Martinez will wear No. 18 this season. He changed numbers to take the one worn by his friend and teammate, the late Oscar Taveras, who was killed in a car crash last October.
With four scheduled off-days in the opening 16 days of the regular season, the Cardinals could have opted to go without a fifth starter for the first couple of weeks.
Matheny, however, said Martinez will get every fifth start, which would put him on the mound for the Cardinals' April 11 game at Cincinnati. With the glut of off-days, Martinez could make his 2015 debut even sooner than that.
"There is the possibility that he could throw out of the 'pen for us at least that first day," Matheny said.
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