Cards mulling what to do with prospect Martinez

Cards mulling what to do with prospect Martinez

Cards mulling what to do with prospect Martinez

CHICAGO -- Carlos Martinez looked good in an extended relief appearance on Saturday night against the Cubs in a 6-4 loss at Wrigley Field.

The Cardinals' top pitching prospect, who was just called up from Triple-A Memphis on Thursday, struck out two over two perfect frames. He kept the Cardinals within striking distance, and they nearly pulled off a late comeback.

Martinez's stuff, however, is what had people in Chicago talking, even a day later. He showed good velocity on his fastball, but also had great movement and dropped in a nice curveball to keep the Cubs off balance. The movement on his pitches is a trait that appears to come naturally and is something he's able to keep late into starts.

"That's what we've seen, and he's shown that in the past, too," manager Mike Matheny said prior to Sunday's finale. "He's a guy that will be able to hold it late in the game, and it's just effortless. The ball really jumps out of his hand without trying, more so than probably anybody else on the club."

The big question now is whether the Cardinals should keep Martinez in the bullpen as a long- or middle-relief option the rest of the season, or send him back to Memphis to continue developing as a starter.

"There's not a clear-cut way to value one [role] or the other," Matheny said. "We do really like what he brings as a starter. And for his development, it's better for him to be prepared to start and it gives us depth, too -- especially with other guys that can do the job in the bullpen. So, it's tough to weigh. We know that he wants to be here. We like having him here and think that he can help us, but there's more that goes into the decision."

For the short term, Martinez said he will head to St. Louis during the All-Star break and wait for the Major League season to restart, rather than going back to Memphis to get in another start.

Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.