Marte impressing since callup to Cards' bullpen

Marte impressing since callup to Cards' bullpen

ST. LOUIS -- Given a chance to join the big league club when Scott Linebrink was sidelined, Victor Marte has capitalized on the chance to make an impression.

Though he did not make the Cardinals' Opening Day roster, Marte has proved not to be a weak link in a St. Louis bullpen that entered Sunday with the National League's second-lowest ERA (2.80). The 31-year-old right-hander has made his mark not only with his results but by routinely getting those results in tight spots.

Marte earned his first hold on Saturday when he retired all three Brewers he faced in an 11-pitch seventh inning. He struck out two. Marte has pitched the seventh inning in each of his last three appearances. In 9 2/3 innings this season, Marte has allowed three runs on five hits and has struck out eight.

"It was nice to get him a good opportunity to be seen in Spring Training and realize that he pitches well in pressure situations," manager Mike Matheny said. "We put him in spots like that in the spring and he thrived and got out of jams. He's got a knack of not really getting rattled, plus he has good stuff. It's been a good fit."

It's been such a good fit that the Cardinals will have a tougher-than-anticipated decision to make when Linebrink comes off the disabled list in May. It's still likely that Marte will be squeezed from the spot because everyone else in the bullpen has also pitched so well. Minor League options -- and Marte has one left -- also would allow the Cardinals to send Marte down without exposing him to other clubs.