‘Stronger’ Martínez eyes Cardinals rotation spot with Mikolas sidelined

An All-Star in 2015 and 2017, Carlos Martínez considers himself a starting pitcher.
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JUPITER, Fla. — The health of Carlos Martínez’s shoulder is even more important for the St. Louis Cardinals now that Miles Mikolas will miss the first few weeks of the season because of an inflamed flexor tendon.

Martínez’s shoulder weakness last spring training following offseason surgery prompted the Cardinals to shift the right-hander to the bullpen. He eventually replaced injured Jordan Hicks as closer, saving 24 games in 27 chances.

“We’re looking for consistency in how he’s doing, how he’s recovering,” St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said. “That’s a big thing for Carlos, making sure the strength is there.”

An All-Star in 2015 and 2017, Martínez considers himself a starting pitcher.

“I feel stronger,” said Martínez, who lost 15 pounds during the offseason. “The day after I throw I don’t feel tired.”

St. Louis has an opening for a starter in a rotation projected to include Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson and Adam Wainwright.

“This time last year he wasn’t in as good a spot from a throwing standpoint and being able to compete,” Shildt said, “but he’s really done everything he needs to do to set himself up for success, to have that opportunity to compete as a starter.”

Mikolas, a 2018 All-Star, received a platelet-rich plasma injection Tuesday and isn’t expected to throw off a mound for three to four weeks.

Other rotation possibilities include Kwang-Hyun Kim, Alex Reyes, John Gant, Giovanny Gallegos, Ryan Helsley, Daniel Ponce de Leon and Austin Gomber.

“Carlos, he knows what he’s competing for,” Shildt said. “I don’t really feel the need to have any conversations with him, or any of the other guys.”

Martínez and Helsley also are candidates to close in the absence of Hicks, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery on June 26 and is not expected back until the second half of the season.