EAST PEORIA — Carlos Martinez's first season in the St. Louis Cardinals starting rotation was a complete success except for the fact he was unable to complete it.
The 24-year-old Martinez posted a 14-7 record and 3.01 ERA over 29 starts. But the final start consisted of just seven pitches when he was removed from a Sept. 25 game against Milwaukee with shoulder discomfort.
"I've been down in Jupiter (Fla.) following a regimen, working out twice a day and getting focused and ready for the season," Martinez said Friday at the Cardinal Caravan through interpreter Tony Ferreira.
"I'm working on the strength in my shoulder. I'm getting close. I'll be ready when the season starts."
Toting a 95-plus mph fastball and a wipeout slider, Martinez struck out 184 in 179 2/3 innings for the Cardinals last season and earned an All-Star berth.
The shoulder soreness did not require surgery but kept him out of the National League Division Series loss to the Chicago Cubs.
Used mostly as a reliever in 2014, the right-hander finished with a 4.03 ERA that he was able to reduced by more than a run as a full-time starter.
"I'm going to keep doing a lot of the same things," he said. "I'm working hard to do everything I can to improve on last year."
Martinez will be part of a St. Louis rotation that features Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia and Mike Leake. Wainwright returns after missing almost all of last season with an Achilles' tendon injury.
"Waino is a really good player, a veteran player. He helps out all the youngsters on the team," said Martinez. "It will be great to have him back in the rotation."
According to Martinez, the death of close friend and Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras in an October, 2014 automobile accident had a profound effect on him. Martinez and Taveras both grew up in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.
"It definitely helped me get more mature. It was a learning experience," Martinez said. "Obviously, it was a tough thing to go through. He was a good friend. Hopefully, he's resting in peace."
The colorful Martinez has acquired the nicknames "Tsunamy" and "El Gallo."
"I'm Carlos Martinez," he said with a smile. "I'm fine with both of them."