CHICAGO -- It's been 18 years, but Carlos Beltran still remembers the first time he experienced snow.
It happened in Lansing, Mich., in the spring of 1996 -- back when Beltran was about to start his first full season of professional baseball with a newly-formed Class A team, the Lansing Lugnuts. The stadium hadn't even hosted its first official Lugnuts game yet when Beltran and a few teammates got their first look at the field, which had a dusting of snow covering it.
"It was cold," Beltran said. "It was so cold. I never experienced any type of weather like that in my life before that. That was the first time. That was a long time ago."
Indeed, it was.
Thursday night's game against the Cubs was the 2,000th Major League game of Beltran's career, happening in his 16th season. In the time that's passed, Beltran has played for five teams and become one of the game's perennial stars. Prior to Thursday's game, Beltran had clubbed 353 home runs and driven in 1,295 runs while posting a .283 career batting average and stealing 308 bases.
"When you start talking about Hall-of-Fame players, you look at all of them and they've done it for a long period of time," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We've seen so many young players come in [and they're] a flash in the pan and we don't hear a whole lot about them later. The consistent level of excellence is very rare and Carlos should be very proud. He's a different style player now than when he first came up with all the speed and just that youthful style, but he's still moving well and swinging the bat as good as any time in his career, in my opinion."
What's been the secret to his longevity?
"I think it's dedication," Beltran said. "You have to dedicate yourself to what you really love to do, and in my case baseball has always been my passion. At the same time, you have to have pride for what you do, the job that you do. So, every time I take the field, I take the field with the mentality to do something positive to help the team."
As for playing his 2,000th game on a much more pleasant day than that snowy day in Lansing 18 years ago, Beltran took it all in stride.
"I didn't know about it until before [Wednesday's] game," he said. "I guess it's good."
Cardinals promote top pitching prospect Martinez
ST. LOUIS -- With a pair of relievers likely to be unavailable for Thursday's series opener against the Cubs, the Cardinals fortified their bullpen by recalling Carlos Martinez from Triple-A. To open a spot for Martinez on the 25-man roster, the Cardinals optioned Michael Blazek to the Minors.
Martinez, the Cardinals' top-ranked pitching prospect and the No. 2 overall prospect in their farm system, has been pitching in the Memphis rotation, though he'll slide into the Major League bullpen for now. He pitched eight innings of relief for St. Louis in May, and he had gone 3-2 with a 1.98 ERA in eight starts since returning to Triple-A on May 27. During that stretch, Martinez struck out 35 and walked 16 in 41 innings.
Martinez, who last pitched on Friday, will be available to pitch immediately and can offer the Cardinals multiple innings of relief. That could be critical, as the Redbirds will likely to be without Seth Maness, who threw 48 pitches in an appearance on Wednesday, and Edward Mujica, who has pitched in six straight games, for Thursday's game at Wrigley Field.
"We'll see ... [we'll use Martinez] as needed," manager Mike Matheny said. "We've got a guy who can come out of the bullpen and throw a few innings or go longer. He's built up to do anything we need him to do. He'll be ready to go. We need somebody who can eat up some innings and he's built himself up to be that guy."
Blazek, the team's No. 8-ranked prospect, made three appearances during his callup and allowed three runs on two hits in three innings. He will return to Memphis.
Matheny ejected following final out
CHICAGO -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was ejected immediately following his team' 3-0 loss to the Cubs on Thursday night at Wrigley Field.
It initially appeared that Matheny was arguing about the game's final out, which was caught by Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano just inches above the grass to give closer Kevin Gregg his 16th save of the season. Instead, Matheny said he was incensed about the actions of home-plate umpire Dan Bellino after a called third strike against Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams to start the ninth.
Adams might have said something about the call as he walked back to the dugout and Bellino removed his mask while motioning Adams away, drawing the ire of Adams and Matheny. Adams declined to comment, but Matheny explained his displeasure with the situation.
"It had more to do with the umpire and how he mistreated one of our players, with Adams," Matheny said. "It had nothing to do with the call. It had everything to do with going too far. It's ridiculous. I mean, you can't take your mask off and motion somebody away. We hadn't had any trouble, we hadn't been complaining all game long and … [Bellino] wanted to be seen, so now he's going to be seen."
Bellino was not reached for comment afterward. He immediately ejected Matheny, who confronted him as he was leaving the field in front of the Cardinals' dugout. Matheny, who was then held back by crew chief Wally Bell, got close to Bellino in the altercation, saying afterward that he wasn't sure if he bumped into Bellino or not.
"He was walking away," Matheny said of Adams. "He said what he needed to say and I'm sure the umpire didn't like it … but he was walking away. He didn't do anything out of the ordinary. I don't have any idea about the pitch -- couldn't tell how from where we were. That wasn't the problem."
Holliday rounding into form at plate
CHICAGO -- Matt Holliday appeared to be rounding into top form as the Cardinals rolled into Wrigley Field to play the Chicago Cubs in a four-game series this weekend before the All-Star break.
Holliday had hits in three straight games coming into Thursday's game against the Cubs, including home runs in two of the previous three games, but he was removed from the game in the fourth inning after appearing to grab at his right hamstring while running to first on a groundout. Holliday was replaced by Matt Adams, who came in to play first while Allen Craig took Holliday's spot in left field. The Cardinals confirmed the injury as right hamstring tightness.
Holliday's batting average was up to .269 prior to the game, he'd clubbed 13 home runs and driven in 47 while occupying the third spot in the Cardinals' batting order. He was also third in the National League in runs scored (64) and had reached base by hit or walk in 42 of the previous 47 games.
"I think he's just seeing the ball," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That sounds pretty simple, but that's usually what is going on for guys when they get something going. He has the strength. He has everything he needs to make it happen. It's just whether he's picking it up or not and little things can throw him off in his timing … but it looks like he has his timing right and he's seeing it well."
Placed one spot behind Carlos Beltran in the batting order and just ahead of Allen Craig (.327) and Yadier Molina (.343), a hot Holliday makes the Cardinals even better than usual.
"There were [times] when we've manipulated it a little bit, but for the most part, when he's in that right frame of mind and has a nice swing working for him in the three spot, it really makes it a pretty intimidating lineup to face," Matheny said. "It's nice when Matt's doing the things we know Matt can do."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.