On Sunday, the Cardinals claimed pitcher Sean Gilmartin off waivers from the New York Mets organization, after he had been designated for assignment. The left-hander was then optioned to Triple-A Memphis.
The 27-year old was the first-round pick by the Atlanta Braves in 2011 and was traded to the Minnesota Twins two years later for Ryan Doumit. The Mets selected the southpaw in the Rule 5 Draft the following year and his major-league career got off to a promising start mostly in a relief capacity: 2.67 ERA, 8.5 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 over 57 1/3 innings in his rookie season.
Gilmartin struggled in limited big-league opportunities last year, spending the majority of the year in the Triple-A Las Vegas rotation. After an invite to big-league spring training in 2017, he dealt with shoulder troubles and posted a 7.05 ERA over eight starts with the 51s in the Pacific Coast League. He also allowed five runs in 3 1/3 innings with the major-league Mets.
Gilmartin’s versatility with the ability to throw multiple innings as a reliever likely contributed to the Cardinals decision to take a flier on him. This transaction moves the Cardinals 40-man roster up to 39 players.
I reached out to the Mets Triple-A Manager Pedro Lopez, who outlines Gilmartin’s progress.
Derek Shore: You had Sean Gilmartin for a brief time. What was your impression of him during the limited look?
Pedro Lopez: “He was actually really impressive. Hard-worker. Good human being. The one thing that really stands out is he’s a student of the game. He likes to compete. He does his homework. Unfortunately, he had a short time here and he got hurt (left shoulder injury) in spring training. He’s been playing catch up with the league here.
“I think he’s going to be a great addition to the Cardinals. He's a guy that is going to be really missed."
DS: What did you see in terms of his overall stuff?
PL: “Strike-thrower. A guy with a fastball, curveball, slider, and change. Has really good command of his off-speed pitches. He does a good job. Like I said, he is a competitor. Too bad that right now he was just playing catch up due to an injury. Overall, I like what I saw.”
DS: Do you think his stuff plays at the major-league level?
PL: “I think so. He’s been up there before. Once he gets going here (in the Pacific Coast League), gets comfortable being (at this level again), I think we will see him up there (MLB) again. Matter of fact, before he left I told him, ‘I’ll see you on TV.’ Hopefully, he gets it going over there. I think he’s a great addition to the ball club.”
DS: It seems Sean has had some success in the lower levels that hasn’t translated to Triple-A and the big-leagues. What have been his issues?
PL: “I saw him pitching against me in Double-A (Binghamton Rumble Ponies). He did a really good job. I thought he threw the ball really well against us. The one thing in his last start the one thing I told him I was like, ‘You’re a student of the game’ and at times that could hurt him because he’s too hard on himself. There are sometimes he needs to back off a little bit. That’s probably a reason why the success hasn’t been there yet.
“I think he’s capable of doing it. Once again, the stuff is there. You’re not going to see 97 or 98, but you are going to see a guy with good command and command of his off-speed pitches.”
DS: He is 27 already, so is not getting any younger. What adjustments does he need to make to turn that around in the higher levels?
PL: “I think he just needs to pound the strike zone with everything he’s got. At times, pitchers that don’t have overpowering stuff try to be too fine with pitches. When pitchers try to be too fine, they find themselves behind and try to pitch from the outside in. I think he’s got to do the opposite. He’s got to pitch from the inside out, you know, then strike one try to work down in the strike zone then inner half or outer third and then work the corners from there once he gets ahead.
“He has problems in the first inning because he’s a student of the game and likes to compete. Hopefully, now, he can change and say that he can go out there and perform and do what he does best. That’s just pitch.”
DS: By looking at his splits, he seems to dominate left-handed bats. What enables him to do this?
PL: “I think the four-pitch mix that he’s got. He’s a guy that has command of all pitches and he’s not afraid to throw that changeup left-on-left. I think that’s what makes him successful.”
DS: Do you envision Sean as more than a left-handed specialist?
PL: “I think he could be a long man. He could be a long man in the bullpen. He could be a guy that could have that spot-start. Then he could be that swingman that in case something happens with the starter, you are going to need him to pitch five, six or seven (innings). He could do that. The command is there. He just needs to trust it and go out there and pitch to do what he does best.”
DS: Sean has started 105 games out of 107 appearances in the minors while making only two starts over 66 games in the big-leagues. What do you think is the reason behind keeping him as a starter in the minors where he would likely have better results out of the ‘pen?
PL: “I think that’s hard to answer, especially me not being on the big-league staff. I think probably the reason being is they want to keep him stretched out in case he does get called up to the big-leagues. That way he’ll have the innings and pitch count to go out there for either a spot-start or long man out of the bullpen.
“I think that is probably the answer behind it. I think the front office here can answer that better than I can. That could be the reason because that is basically some of the same situations we have here this year and already in the past.”
DS: As far as his approach or intangibles, how would you describe that for Sean?
PL: “Great makeup. Every time he went out there, you knew what you were going to get. That’s the thing that makes him a good pitcher. He competes. Straightforward teammate. He likes to be out there. He wants the ball. He doesn’t want to come out of ballgames. That’s what makes him a good player.”
DS: You mentioned him missing time in spring training due to injury, Is he fully healthy now?
PL: “(The injury) happened in big-league camp and I wasn’t there. I know he was throwing regular and then he was shut down. Then he started throwing towards the end (of spring training). When started the season and we opened up, I think his pitch limit was like 65 (pitches) because he wasn’t built up yet.
“Now at this point, he’s healthy and good to go. He’s up to 110 pitches now. Overall, he’s healthy and he’s good to go.”
DS: Is there anything else you’d like to add that we didn’t touch on?
PL: “No, I think he’s going to be missed here. Great teammate, great guy. He competes. That’s the one thing that makes him a good player. He’s a competitor and likes to go out there.”
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.
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