Top Prospects: Carlos Martinez, RHP, Cardinals

JUPITER, Fla. -- More than six weeks after the pitchers and catchers Spring Training report date, right-hander Carlos Martinez is finally cleared to travel to Jupiter and kick off his preparation for the 2013 season.

Martinez had his work visa approved by the Dominican Republic this week, which means he will arrive in Florida in time to briefly participate in Minor League camp, which ends on Monday. The 21-year-old right-hander, who is ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the Cardinals' system, was slated to participate in his first Major League Spring Training this year until visa troubles stranded him at home.

Martinez has been on a throwing program in the Dominican Republic, but he will begin the season in extended spring training to build up his arm strength. The Cardinals will get a better gauge on how long Martinez's season will be delayed after they watch him throw.

Martinez ended the 2012 season in Double-A, where he posted a 2.90 ERA and held opponents to a .237 batting average in 15 games (14 starts).

Garcia rolls into regular season with confidence

WSH@STL: Garcia fans eight in eight innings for Cards

JUPITER, Fla. -- Manager Mike Matheny seemed unconcerned that left-hander Jaime Garcia faced an entirely Minor League lineup in his start Wednesday against the Nationals. That's because it didn't keep Garcia from getting near the 90-pitch mark, and, in fact, it stood to serve as another confidence booster for Garcia, who has had a sensational spring.

Garcia pitched eight innings -- two more than any other Cardinals starter had in a Grapefruit League game - and allowed one run on six hits, while throwing 87 pitches. He struck out eight and didn't allow a walk. In his 29 spring innings, Garcia notched 24 strikeouts and walked just five.

"He just came out with a real clear idea of what he was trying to accomplish," Matheny said. "And moreso than anything else [it] was his mindset. I think it's been a very good spring for him right from the start. Once he got going right in his mind, the stuff just follows along. And then that confidence comes from having some success."

Garcia's arrival in camp was greeted with immediate questions about his left shoulder, which twice forced him to shut down last season. Though the Cardinals received positive reports from Garcia about his offseason throwing program, everyone wanted to see for themselves how he looked.

If it was a test, Garcia unquestionably passed. He had arguably the best spring of any of the pitchers set to make the Cardinals' Opening Day roster.

"The biggest thing was being able to go out there every fifth day, being able to trust yourself and get in a position where you are ready to go for the season," Garcia said. "The first thing is health. Obviously, that's what everybody wants. I'm going to be there for my teammates, and I'm going to take one day at a time."

The only thing trumping the need to prove his health to everyone else was the necessity that Garcia proved it to himself. The left shoulder impingement that slowed him in 2012 is still there, but Garcia has altered the strength work he does in between starts to better allow him to pitch through it. Now, he knows he can.

"He just has never seen what he throws from the plate," Matheny said. "I think if he could see it and realize how hard it is to do anything with, he'd trust it a lot more often and not try to be quite so fine. I've seen him [have] that [trust] this spring."

Worth noting

• Left fielder Matt Holliday returned to the lineup on Wednesday, a day after being scratched due to tightness in his left side. Holliday had three plate appearances before being removed for a pinch-runner in the bottom of the third. He finished with two walks and an RBI single.

• Carlos Beltran is expected to be back in the Cardinals' lineup on Thursday. Beltran played in Tuesday's game with a broken right toe but told Matheny on Wednesday that he felt OK. Said Matheny: "He promised me he'd be fine, and he said, 'I told you so.'"

• The starting pitching matchup for the Cardinals' first series has been set. Adam Wainwright will face Arizona's Ian Kennedy in Monday's opener. Garcia and Trevor Cahill will start on Tuesday, while Lance Lynn and Brandon McCarthy are in line to pitch in the series finale.

• The Cardinals announced plans for an Andy Cohen Night at Busch Stadium on May 10, during which they'll honor Cohen, a TV personality and author. The St. Louis native will throw out a ceremonial first pitch, and fans who purchase special Cohen Night tickets to the game will receive an Andy Cohen Cardinals bobblehead. VIP packages are also available for the event. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, visit cardinals.com/bravoandy.