Cincinnati Reds utility man supreme Chris Heisey knew to look fastball. It was not as if he had a chance to hit Carlos Martinez‘s slider. Heisey overcame five St. Louis Cardinals infielders and cracked a single through to win the second game of the season, and just like that Martinez was saddled with the team’s first loss.
Martinez had come into the eighth and thrown a dazzling array of sliders, dancing two-seamers and the occasional change-up to make the Reds see, well, red. But the ninth was a different story as the Reds stayed on top of three fastballs, all hit through the right side of the infield, to win the game.
This is, however, about more than one game. If you talk to scouts, they will tell you that Martinez has as good of stuff as anybody — as in in the game. But manager Mike Matheny chose to exercise caution with his superstud fireballer and instead made him a setup man for closer Trevor Rosenthal. This loss will likely be a learning experience for Martinez, both in terms of pitch location and selection.
Martinez will be fine, and hopefully he will take the loss for what it is: a learning experience. Matheny, conversely, will next trot out Lance Lynn who, if he does as expected, will pitch brilliantly for about four innings, flame out in the fifth and set Twitter aflame with angry Cardinal fans convinced Lynn is a covert Chicago Cub operative.
If and when this happens, or maybe after several if and whens, Matheny will at some point have a decision to make. Does he stick with the reliably unreliable Lynn or does he take a chance on Martinez? Martinez still has some learning and growing to do, but if Heisey showed us anything, other than sheer gratitude for not getting three consecutive sliders, he showed us that Martinez is going to best polish up that golden arm as a starter, not a setup man.
The Cardinals have plenty of depth in the bullpen and will have even more when former closer Jason Motte returns in May, so eventually Matheny will have to develop his most dynamic arm of all — and maybe in all of baseball. The Cardinals’ embarrassment of riches are only useful if, with regards to developing their arms, management does not use embarrassing judgment.