Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cardinals Notebook: Motte, and His Beard, Are Welcomed Back

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cardinals Notebook: Motte, and His Beard, Are Welcomed Back

Article excerpt

JUPITER, Fla. * Once the bullpen session was over, Cardinals All-Star catcher Yadier Molina greeted a former catcher with the words, "Welcome back, papi."

The first time Jason Motte was in a Cardinals big-league clubhouse was in 2005 when he was dressing next to outfielder So Taguchi. Motte was a minor-league catcher summoned to help warm up pitchers such as Jeff Suppan.

Ultimately, Motte, because he couldn't hit, became a pitcher himself and went on to record the last out of the 2011 World Series for the Cardinals and lead the National League in saves with 42 in 2012.

Tommy John elbow surgery followed after that and then stops with the Chicago Cubs, Colorado and Atlanta ensued but on Monday, Motte was back in the Cardinals' clubhouse and wearing his old No. 30.

If the 35-year-old reliever, who has signed a minor-league contract with the Cardinals, doesn't make the club, he will play at Class AAA Memphis, where he lives and where he met his future wife, Caitlin, a decade ago.

He has gone full cycle. "Yeah, right back where it all started," said the bearded Motte. And he has some kind of bushy beard, although it has several different colors now.

"About 27," joked Motte. "I've got gray, black, red, brown, probably some food in there. I just ate some breakfast, so maybe a little bit of some eggs. It's a little bit of everything."

Longtime teammate Adam Wainwright moved past a cluster of reporters to embrace Motte. "That's such a good beard," marveled Wainwright.

Motte mixed in some minor league work in the Braves' system last year and was 1-0 with the big-league club in 46 games.

He had to go beardless in the minors, per Atlanta policy, and he said, "It was brutal. It was a terrible 2 weeks of my life."

Motte's .172 average in 2005 here at Palm Beach and a .133 mark for nine games with the same club in 2006 helped lead to his transformation to a pitcher.

"Hitting a buck-80 was kind of the icing on the cake," said Motte. His inability to hit has stayed with Motte in his major league career. He has batted five times in nine seasons, including one playoff at-bat and struck out every time.

Motte doesn't throw 101 miles per hour anymore. He said he touches anywhere between 93 and 96, but now he relies a lot on his cutter.

"I still think I've got something there," said Motte, "but you've got to locate."

Motte had been facing hitters at Memphis University "just in case. When that call came, I'd be ready to go," he said.

"If it was meant to be, someone was going to call. If it wasn't, I'd have been on carpool duty, like I'd been doing all off-season."

Manager Mike Matheny said, "We're going to bring him in, give him a chance to throw and see what we've got."


Lefthander Brett Cecil made his first appearance in camp. Cecil, who was absent because of a family health matter, said he hadn't thrown in 2 weeks and estimated he wouldn't be throwing bullpens here for a week-and a half. …

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