As I’m watching the game against the Pirates tonight, Mike Matheny brought Carlos Martinez, his eighth inning guy, in the sixth inning to spell Joe Kelly. Which made me wonder why Matheny bothered to designate Martinez as his setup man if he wasn’t going to actually be the eighth inning man.
But at the same time, the more I think about it, the more I think this is the perfect role for Martinez.
We have three guys in the rotation this year who will need to have their innings watched. Those are Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, and Joe Kelly. Miller and Wacha will likely be targeted around 200 innings, including the playoffs. Kelly will likely be a lot lower, maybe around 170 innings.
Martinez’s role should be that of an innings saver. Have him expected to go a few innings behind Miller, Wacha, or Kelly every few days. With Kevin Siegrist as a quality option for the eighth inning and Jason Motte on his way back, this role is a win from almost every angle.
If Martinez is really the next best starting pitcher on the staff, he is being vastly underutilized confined to a one inning bullpen role. Making him a modified long reliever to help protect the other young pitchers while keeping himself stretched out to go multiple innings in case of an injury to a starting pitcher would seem to make the most sense for the team going forward.