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Former Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez suspended 80 games for PEDs

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez, left, gets a visit to the mound from...
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez, left, gets a visit to the mound from pitching coach Mike Maddux during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)(Marcio Jose Sanchez | AP)
Published: May. 27, 2022 at 5:34 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - The fall from grace of one former Cardinals pitcher has been swift and noteworthy; Friday came the latest unfortunate step in a troublesome journey for Carlos Martinez.

Major League Baseball has suspended Martinez for 80 games after the 30-year-old right-hander tested positive for Ibutamoren, a performance-enhancing substance that violates Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Martinez started the year with the Giants before being released after failing to make the team’s MLB roster. Boston then picked up Martinez to give him a shot in Triple-A--it did not go well for the former Cardinals’ All-Star as he allowed 10 earned runs in 4.1 innings pitched for an ERA of 20.77. Martinez was subsequently released by the Red Sox earlier this month.

It’s a sad story of substantial talent being squandered at an almost unfathomable rate. Martinez was one of the most effective starting pitchers in the National League from 2015 to 2017, posting a 42-27 record with a 3.24 ERA as a fixture in the Cardinals rotation. Martinez began grappling with injuries that he never seemed consistently able to shake. Shoulder issues in 2018 cost Martinez a chunk of his season; he returned as a capable reliever down the stretch run of that campaign.

But when spring training rolled around for 2019, Martinez still wasn’t healthy enough--whether that was physically, mentally, or a combination of both--to reclaim his desired place in the starting rotation. It was that year that discussions about Martinez’s mentality seemed to move further to the forefront.

His preparation wasn’t consistently what it ought to have been for an elite big-league starter. Martinez pitched out of the bullpen again in 2019 and served as the team’s primary closer, converting 24 saves in 27 opportunities and compiling a 3.17 ERA as a reliever that season. But when the Cardinals signed Martinez to his $51 million contract extension in 2017, they did so expecting him to contribute as a starting pitcher.

So when Martinez rolled into Summer Camp at Busch Stadium following the COVID-19 delay, the team was impressed with the work that he had put in to earn a spot back in the club’s starting five. But Martinez quickly flamed out as a starter that season, struggling with efficiency and posting a 9.90 ERA in five starts before suffering a season-ending oblique injury.

2021 was a similar story for Martinez; poor performance culminating in another injury, this time a torn thumb ligament in July. The public persona that Martinez provided through his Instagram posts during that time period didn’t always paint him as particularly eager to rehab and return to the St. Louis active roster for a potential postseason run that season.

The Cardinals had ultimately seen enough of the experiment, making the obvious decision to decline the team option they held for Martinez following the conclusion of the 2021 season. The pitcher’s attempts to reinvent himself in his latest stops haven’t panned out. Now a PED-related suspension looming over his head could very well spell the end to his Major League career without a significant turnaround for the talented pitcher who simply could not stay out of his own way.