The plan all along has been for Carlos Martinez to be a starter, as that's how he became one of baseball's best pitching prospects while mowing down hitters in the minors for the St. Louis Cardinals.
His window to make an impression just got a little bit bigger.
A day after learning Michael Wacha's recovery is still a ways off, the Cardinals will try to make it five wins in five Martinez starts Tuesday night against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.
Jaime Garcia is out for the season, Joe Kelly has missed nearly three months and Wacha has a stress fracture in his right shoulder, providing a serious test to St. Louis' rotation depth.
Kelly will likely return Friday, but the Cardinals (48-42) found out Monday that Wacha needs at least two more weeks of rest before being re-evaluated.
It could be at least another month before he's ready to return, but Martinez (2-3, 3.91 ERA) is softening the blow of that absence. After starting all but one of his 68 minor league games, the right-hander came out of the bullpen 50 times in his first 51 major league appearances before starting against the New York Mets on June 16.
He's 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his four outings, and though he's yet to pitch past the fifth inning as he stretches out his arm, manager Mike Matheny has been encouraged. Martinez held the Giants to a run over five innings Thursday, striking out six with just one walk in a 7-2 road win.
"This was his best, no question," Matheny told MLB's official website. "I thought he had a consistent, fluid delivery. It looked like his arm was timed up with his body. It looked to me more like pitching today, rather than raring back and seeing how nasty he could be."
Martinez is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in five appearances against the Pirates (47-42) this season.
Like Martinez, Vance Worley (2-1, 2.28) has also made four starts in the majors this season. He's pitched into the seventh in each, and had a no-hitter through 5 1-3 innings Thursday against Arizona before leaving after seven with three runs allowed in a 10-2 loss.
"(Worley)'s human, and he just missed some spots," manager Clint Hurdle said. "... Five-and-a-third, no-hit, the volume of work still solid."
Charlie Morton and Adam Wainwright didn't miss much in Monday's opener of this four-game set, each tossing seven scoreless innings. The Pirates had eight hits to the Cardinals' three, but Matt Adams' homer in the ninth was all St. Louis needed to walk off with a 2-0 win.
Adams has hit .382 in his last 14 games to raise his average to .331, trailing only Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki among NL players with at least 250 plate appearances.
"He's a dad-gum good hitter, man," Wainwright said. "I think we're just breaking the ice of the surface of what this guy can do."
Pittsburgh went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position Monday as St. Louis evened the season series between these clubs at 5-all.
Reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen went 0 for 5 for the first time this season and just the third time in the last calendar year - all against the Cardinals.