The Cards are -115 favorites on MLB odds with a total of 8 as they face NL Central rival, Cincinnati Reds in the end of their three-game series Sunday in matchup of young pitchers.
Next Cuban Sensation?
In the past few seasons, Cuban defectors have made a huge impact on Major League Baseball. Guys like White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu (the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year and the preseason favorite at sportsbooks to lead the majors in homers this season), Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and Tigers outfielder Yoenis Cespedes (mostly with the A's) to name three. But that I can recall, there really hasn't been a Cuban starting pitcher that has made an impact along those lines since brothers Orlando and Livan Hernandez. Oh, there have been some with success but not stars. I don't count the Marlins' Jose Fernandez, the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year, because he attended high school in the United States after defecting in 2008 and was subject to the amateur draft.
The Reds likely might have the best pitcher who came straight from Cuba to the majors in recent years in fire-balling closer Aroldis Chapman, whom the Reds won a bidding for in January 2010 to the tune of a six-year, $30.25 million contact. That has been money well spent. He now has a countryman on the pitching staff as 25-year-old Cuban Raisel Iglesias will make his first big-league start Sunday.
Iglesias defected from Cuba and the Cuban national team in November 2013 and landed in Haiti. He established residence in Haiti, making him eligible to sign a major-league contract. The Reds signed him last June to a seven-year, $27 million contract. Iglesias pitched three seasons for Isla de la Juventud in Cuba's Serie Nacional, the island's top baseball league. He was largely a reliever. Iglesias gave up two runs and three hits while striking out over 4 2/3 innings in five games during the World Baseball Classic for Cuba in 2013. He's rail thin but can hit 96 mph on the gun. Iglesias was a bit up-and-down this spring. In 14.2 innings, he was 0-3 with a 3.68 ERA, allowing 14 hits and striking out 14.
"He really knows how to pitch. He uses all of his pitches in any count," Reds catcher and fellow Cuban Brayan Pena said recently to the Cincinnati media. "He's not afraid to use his off-speed when behind in the count. That says a lot about a guy that knows what he's doing out there."
Certainly it could be an advantage for the Reds that St. Louis hitters have never faced Iglesias in a regular-season game. At least the first time through the lineup it could be an advantage.
Cards' Martinez Younger Than Iglesias
When preparing MLB picks, keep in mind that St. Louis counters with 23-year-old Dominican right-hander Carlos Martinez. A spot opened in the St. Louis rotation this winter when the team traded Shelby Miller to Atlanta for outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden. The Cards felt comfortable trading the talented Miller because they had other good young pitchers in Martinez and Marco Gonzales. Martinez beat out Gonzales and veteran Jaime Garcia this spring, with Garcia landing on the 15-day disabled list because of soreness in his surgically repaired left shoulder. Martinez was 2-0 with a 2.86 ERA in 22.0 spring innings. Batters hit just .195 off him and he struck out 21.
This is Martinez's third season in the bigs. Last year, he made 57 appearances and seven starts over 89.1 innings. He was 2-4 with 17 holds, a save, five blown saves with an ERA of 4.03. He allowed 90 hits and struck out 84 while walking 36. He made nine relief appearances against the Reds over 11.2 innings, going 0-1 with a 3.09 ERA. He allowed 13 hits, struck out 16 and walked two. All-Star Reds third baseman Todd Frazier has struggled against Martinez, going 1-for-6 with four strikeouts. Jay Bruce is 0-for-5 with a strikeout. Zack Cosart has had the most success, going 2-for-6 with a double and an RBI.
Martinez did pitch in the 2014 MLB season opener last Sunday night at Wrigley Field. He relieved starter Adam Wainwright in the seventh inning and didn't allow the Cubs to score in that inning, striking out one and walking one.
Hard to know what Iglesias is, while at least Martinez, while also young, is a pretty known commodity. The Cards are 5-2 in Martinez's past seven starts. The 'over' is 4-0 in his past four.
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