Mike Matheny sided with recent track record rather than veteran rank when choosing his Opening Day starter.
In a somewhat surprising turn of events, St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny announced on Wednesday morning that Carlos Martinez will be the starting pitcher when the St. Louis Cardinals kick off their 2017 regular season on April 2 against the Chicago Cubs.
Martinez is pretty obviously the Cardinals’ most talented starting pitcher at this point–and for that matter, one of the best starting pitchers in baseball–but 35-year-old Adam Wainwright is one of the best starters in franchise history and has started for the Cards on Opening Day for the past four years and five times overall.
Considering that Matheny has always been rather loyal to his veteran players, even when it was rather obvious that a younger player was the better option, it almost seemed unlikely that Martinez would get the Opening Day nod this season. Obviously something swayed Matheny over the past month, though, whether it was Martinez’s dominant performance for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic or Wainwright’s rough spring, during which he’s had a 10.97 ERA and 2.16 WHIP over four starts.
Though Wainwright is a fringe Hall-of-Fame candidate, he hasn’t been effective for a prolonged period since 2014. Martinez, meanwhile, had a 3.04 ERA and 1.22 WHIP last season and will be a potential Cy Young candidate this season. And since he signed an extension this offseason that could potentially keep him a Cardinal through 2023, it makes sense to pass the torch to him now and officially anoint him as the team’s ace of the present and the future.
Wainwright will get a nice consolation prize, starting the Cardinals’ second game of the season, likely against 2016 NL Cy Young third-place finisher Kyle Hendricks.