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Martinez aims to get leg up in rotation battle

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ST. LOUIS -- Carlos Martinez began the 2013 season behind, a byproduct of visa issues that kept him stuck in the Dominican Republic for nearly the entire duration of camp. This year, he has prepared himself to be ahead.

Days before his Sunday appearance at the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up, Martinez wrapped up a six-start winter ball stint that allowed him the chance to get some work as a starter. The work, Martinez hopes, will help expedite the build-up process in Spring Training, where he will be competing for a spot in the starting rotation.

"I'm working hard right now and hopefully with all my hard work, I'll be in it," Martinez said through his translator and business manager Alexy Hernandez. "I thank God for the opportunity to be here. I have been working hard in the offseason to get to that spot."

Martinez logged 23 2/3 innings for the Aguilas Cibaenas club in the Dominican Winter Leagues after joining the team in mid-December. He allowed 22 hits, 14 runs (eight earned), walked four and struck out 26. In his final start on Jan. 15, Martinez pitched seven shutout innings.

"I wanted to get more experience as a starter and pitch to more quality guys to get the experience that I needed," Martinez said. "I wanted to work on certain pitches that I'll use as a starter before I come in and compete for that spot."

Regardless of how well Martinez pitches this spring, he will have a tough time cracking the rotation, only because of the number of other worthy candidates. If there is no starting spot available, Martinez is likely to find a place in the bullpen (at least temporarily), as he did in 2013.

Martinez will spend the remaining time before camp in Miami, where he will throw live batting practice and bullpens.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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