St. Louis Cardinals Name Carlos Martinez Opening Night Starter

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JUPITER, FL - MARCH 22: Carlos Martinez #18 of the St Louis Cardinals throws the ball against the Washington Nationals in the first inning during a spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium on March 22, 2017 in Jupiter, Florida. The Cardinals defeated the Nationals 6-1. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Carlos Martinez

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that Carlos Martinez will take the mound when they open the season against the rival Chicago Cubs on April 2nd.  The decision comes just days after Martinez returned from pitching for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

Martinez (without question the best Cardinals starter in 2015) has been earning this opportunity since he broke onto the scene in the 2013 postseason.  Over the last two seasons in a full-time starting role, he has been an electric presence for the St. Louis pitching staff.  He went 14-7 with a 3.01 ERA in 2015 before his season ended early due to injury. Martinez followed that up with a similar season last year, when he finished with a record of 16-9 with a 3.04 ERA and 174 strikeouts to 70 walks.

St. Louis Cardinals Name Carlos Martinez Opening Night Starter

Martinez’s competition for the Opening Day start was veteran Adam Wainwright, who has started each of the last four season openers for St. Louis.  After a torn achilles tendon took away most of 2015 from him, Wainwright spent most of 2016 dealing with the rust of missing a season, finishing with a 13-9 record with a career-high ERA of 4.62. Wainwright will start the second game of the season against Chicago, but choosing Martinez over Wainwright for Opening Night is a break in tradition for manager Mike Matheny, who has favored experience and leadership as his decision-making criteria in the past.

The Cardinals awarded Martinez for his impressive play over the last several seasons with an off-season contract extension.  The hard-throwing righty is set to make $51 million over the next five seasons in St. Louis, with a team option for the two seasons after that.  This deal essentially makes Martinez the bedrock of the Cardinals rotation for the foreseeable future, setting him up as the Cardinals number one starter for this season and beyond.

Although Wainwright will likely remain the strongest source of leadership for the rotation, it is Martinez that is the true ace of the pitching staff and the future of the Cardinals.  The choice to have him pitch Opening Day against the Cubs reflects this and carries on the recent mood for a team that is beginning to move on from its past stars (Matt Holliday, for example) and look to the bright future offered by players like Martinez.

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