Walking by the media scrum in front of Jason Motte’s locker, Dexter Fowler politely interrupted to ask, “Can I get a hug?” The reliever happily obliged, wrapping his former/new teammate in a bear hug and in exchange Fowler tugged at Motte’s beard. There were similar reactions from those who had played with Motte before–in St. Louis or elsewhere.
But after a four year absence, the 35-year old reliever is back to where it all began for him, having agreed to a minor league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, who drafted him in 2003.
“I’m just gonna go pitch,” said Motte. “Everything will take care of itself. My job is to come in here and have a good spring. Everything else will sort itself out…it’s awesome just to be able to put this uniform back on where everything started. Just happy to be here. Go out there, throw strikes and get some outs.”
After recording the final out of the 2011 World Series, Motte recorded 42 saves in 2012 before needing Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2013. He spent one more season with St. Louis, appearing in 29 games during 2014.
Since then, Motte has pitched for the Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies, and last year with Atlanta. He recorded a 3.54 ERA in 46 games for the Braves and struck out 27 batters in 40.2 innings.
Through all of those seasons, he and his wife, Caitlin, have lived in Memphis–which of course is the home of the Cardinals Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds. As Motte is signed to a minor league contract, if he does not make the big league roster he would then essentially pitch at home.
“I have goals, I have what I would like to do but like I said, that all starts today–it’s one day at a time,” said Motte and then smiled. “Strikes. Get outs–before they score. End the inning before they put up any runs, that’s the goal.”
With the slow free agent market this off-season, Motte wasn’t sure where he was going to wind up and just continued with his workouts in the meantime.
“It all works out like it’s supposed to,” he said with a smile. “If it was meant to be, someone was going to call. If it wasn’t, I’d be at home on carpool duty like I have been all off-season.”
A former Roberto Clemente nominee by the Cardinals, Jason and Caitlin have continued their charitable efforts around the St. Louis area since their departure. This past December, Motte was honored by the Jack Buck Awards for that work.
“I did see DeWitt there and talked to him a little bit briefly at the awards dinner, but no,” laughed Motte when asked if he dropped any hints about wanting to return to the Cardinals. “I spoke to Mo a little bit during some of the stuff a couple days ago. But other than that, I let me agent do his job and et Mo do his. I’m here on a minor league deal, so coming here I’ve gotta pitch well. I’ve got to do what I have to do to go out there and try to make the team.”
–Reliever Brett Cecil, who had been excused the last couple of weeks due to personal reasons, returned to camp this morning. Not wanting to speak on the specifics, Cecil did share that his absence wasn’t physical and is still on-going. He has not thrown in a little over two weeks, but did workout during the leave.
“It depends on how I feel, but probably a week and half,” he speculated on long he will need to get back on track. “I had just gotten off the mound, not throwing ‘pens, just feeling the downhill motion but I had to stop. So it shouldn’t take me that long.”
Cecil had started his throwing program earlier this off-season, trying to combat his habit of being a slow-starter.
“It’s kind of a wait and see thing, but I should be fine.”
photo credit: Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com, Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports, Jason Motte Foundation