Is St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny over-using Carlos Martinez & Trevor Rosenthal?

Andy Lyons

Mike Matheny is leaning hard on his best young relievers so far this season.

On Monday night in snowy Milwaukee, St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny called on righty Carlos Martinez to handle the bottom of the eighth inning with the el Birdos leading the Brewers 4-0. Martinez did so efficiently, needing a mere eight pitches to get through the inning. After the Redbirds failed to plate any runs in the visitors' half of the ninth, Matheny sent Martinez out to handle the game's final three outs as well. Matheny's usage of the 22-year-old Dominican was rather curious.

On the one hand, Martinez hadn't thrown since Friday and efficiently breezed through the home half of the eighth. On the other, Matheny has leaned on Martinez hard this young season and the club had a 4-0 lead. Why not turn to Seth Maness for the final three outs of the four-run game? The answer, it seems, is trust. So far this young season, it appears that Matheny is comfortable with some relievers and is loathe to have others even appear in a game. Matheny's bullpen trust issues have manifested themselves with the Cardinals skipper using closer Trevor Rosenthal and Martinez at unsustainably high rates so far in April.

The following chart contains the usage stats for each Cardinals reliever through the team's first 13 games and extrapolates them out over the full 162-game season.

Pitcher

Games

Innings Pitched

G Pace

IP Pace

Carlos Martinez

7

9 2/3

87

120.46

Trevor Rosenthal

6

7 1/3

75

91.38

Pat Neshek

6

5 1/3

75

66.46

Kevin Siegrist

7

4 2/3

87

58.15

Randy Choate

5

4

62

49.85

Seth Maness

3

3 2/3

37

45.69

Keith Butler

1

1

12

12.46

When the Cardinals announced that Joe Kelly would be the No. 5 starter over Martinez, folks lamented using Martinez for a fraction of the innings that he would provide as a starter. So far this young season, Matheny seems dead set on testing that notion. He has turned to Martinez early and often. At present, Martinez is on pace for over 120 regular-season innings, an extraordinarily high total for a reliever in this day and age.

While Matheny's early usage of Rosenthal has been less abusive than that of Martinez, it is no less worrisome. The flame-throwing closer is on a 91-inning pace at present that he simply won't be able to continue through September, let alone October.

All of this while Keith Butler and Maness go largely unused. This is not to say that Maness or Butler should be used in high-leverage situations of the type Martinez and Rosenthal have by and large been deployed in. Rather, it's to say that when the Cardinals are ahead by four runs in the late innings, turning to another reliever might not be such a bad idea. Matheny is going to have to use Maness or Butler in such a situation at some point this year, so why not start doing so on Monday night?

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