ST. LOUIS — When top pitching prospect Carlos Martinez was sent from the Cardinals to Memphis in late May, the club said it wanted to prepare him to start.
Those plans apparently have been put on hold. With the Cardinals’ bullpen running short on rested arms, Martinez has been promoted from Triple-A Memphis and another rookie who had been working as a reliever, Michael Blazek, has been sent back to Memphis, the club announced Thursday morning.
Martinez, who had been scheduled to start Thursday night in Nashville, is expected to join the Cardinals in time for the opener of a four-game series at Wrigley Field. Though the club did not immediately announce its plans for Martinez, he likely will fill a long-relief role this weekend.
Long man Joe Kelly is scheduled to start Friday night and would not be available to pitch Thursday night. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Thursday afternoon that Kelly also would start the first time the Cardinals need a fifth starter after the break, which would be July 27.
Closer Edward Mujica, who has worked in six consecutive games, doesn’t figure to be available Thursday. Manager Mike Matheny said after Mujica earned his 25th save Wednesday night that his closer was tired even before he threw 22 pitches to close out a 5-4 victory.
Also, right-hander Seth Maness threw 48 pitches and likely will be unavailable for the next two days.
Blazek endured a poor outing Tuesday night when he was called on in the ninth inning of a game the Cardinals were leading 9-1. He retired only two of the seven batters he faced, was charged with three runs and forced Matheny to summon Mujica for the final out.
Martinez, 21, has gone 3-2 with a 1.98 ERA in his eight starts since May 28 at Memphis. In a recent start, he shut out Iowa for 7 1/3 innings on three hits while walking none and striking out eight. Catcher Rob Johnson, promoted to the Cardinals on Tuesday, said Martinez “was as good as anybody I’ve caught all year” during the Iowa outing. “Light’s out with three pitches,” Johnson said.
With Mujica out for Thursday, Trevor Rosenthal becomes the likely closer. Lefty rookie Kevin Siegrist also has been moving up the ranks in the bullpen. Siegrist has not allowed an earned run in his first 12 appearances, a club record for the start of a career.
After dropping five of eight on a road trip, the Cardinals head to Chicago on a five-game winning streak after sweeping the last-place Marlins and Astros. They get another losing team in the Cubs, but one that has been playing better. The Cubs had won seven of 10 before a 13-2 blowout loss to the Angels on Wednesday night. Left fielder Alfonso Soriano is carrying the offense. He has hit six homers and driven in 12 runs in his past nine games.
Newly named first-time All-Stars Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig and left fielder Matt Holliday have led the St. Louis offense lately. All three are hitting better than .350 and have combined for 17 RBIs during the winning streak.
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