Zack Greinke is your first-third NL Cy Young

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The last couple of years I’ve done first-third awards at the end of May, handing out Rookie of the Years, Cy Youngs and MVPs at the end of May based on what had happened 54 or so games in.

This year, I’m going to call one a little early: Zack Greinke will be the first-third Cy Young in the NL.

Greinke has looked terrific right since the start of the spring, and he was especially exceptional in Saturday’s season debut, shutting out the Cardinals for seven innings. He allowed three hits, walked none and struck out seven.

The Greinke we’re seeing now looks a whole lot like the one who won the 2009 AL Cy Young Award with the Royals. He ended that year with a 2.16 ERA and 242 strikeouts in 229 1/3 innings. The two years since have been modest disappointments, as he finished with a 4.17 ERA in his last year in K.C. and a 3.83 ERA in his first in Milwaukee, but he did strike out a career-best 10.5 batters per nine innings last season, showing his stuff was intact.

Whether he’ll keep it together for the whole year remains to be seen. He has plenty of incentive, this being his walk year, but Greinke seems to look at the world a bit differently than most of the rest of us and his results haven’t always matched his stuff. I’ll trust him to keep it going for a couple of months anyway. For the full year, I think I’d still rather take my chances with Roy Halladay or Clayton Kershaw.

Carlos Martínez to pitch out of bullpen upon return from injured list

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Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said pitcher Carlos Martínez will work out of the bullpen when he returns from the injured list, The Athletic’s Mark Saxon reports. Shildt noted that the decision is based on Martínez’s needs rather than the team’s needs, which suggests he may not yet have the strength to pitch as a starter.

Martínez, 27, opened the season on the injured list due to a right rotator cuff strain. The right-hander was also injured last year, battling lat and oblique injuries. He will go to extended spring training and likely begin a minor league rehab assignment next week. Based on that time frame, Martínez should be activated around mid-May.

Last year, Martínez made 18 starts and 15 relief appearances, posting a 3.11 ERA with five saves and a 117/60 K/BB ratio across 118 2/3 innings. It is unclear what role(s) Martínez will have in the bullpen, but he could eventually help set up for closer Jordan Hicks.