JUPITER, Fla. • Looking to break the tedium of Jason Motte’s steady return toward the majors, the Cardinals took away the batting cage and had their former closer pitch to hitters Friday in front of a crowd, standing four deep in some places, on Field 1.
“It wasn’t 45,000 at Busch,” Motte said. “But there was a little atmosphere.”
Motte threw 25 pitches in his third round of batting practice, and he will have at least one similar outing before the Cardinals consider him for a game appearance. The Cardinals do not intend to use Motte in a Grapefruit League game this spring, so that they can backdate his stint on the disabled list. When he starts the regular season on the DL, that will allow him to shave 10 days off the 15-day minimum.
The righty, who had elbow reconstructive surgery last spring, has said he expects to be healthy enough to avoid “being babied” in the big-league bullpen by the end of April or early May. That would be 12 months after surgery.
He likened Friday to being in the first week of spring training.
On his current schedule, he’ll pitch in a minor-league game Thursday.
Friday’s outing “was a controlled game,” Motte said. He described how Xavier Scruggs belted a fastball over the plate and called it “a rude awakening. This is no joke. These guys are taking real swings, real at-bats, and if I’m not ready for this I need to say something. If I cannot do this right now, or if I don’t feel like I’m at that level. But everything was fine.”
At his stage of recovery, Motte has had the target velocity and his command is improving. He used both of his pitches, testing hitters with his cut fastball and four-seam fastball. He had a few swings and misses on his cutter, the latest pitch he’s added to his program.
“The hardest things about an injury is that you’re OK, you can actually do this and your arm isn’t going to go with it,” Motte said. “After my first (batting practice) I was hesitant. My second was OK, I’m going to do this. … (This time) I let it go.”
Righty Tyrell Jenkins, the 50th overall selection in 2010’s draft, is scheduled to throw a 50-pitch session today as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery. Jenkins had 13 starts in 2013, 10 at the Class A level, and finished the year 4-4 with a 4.70 ERA in 59 1/3 innings. He needed shoulder surgery to correct a chronic soreness and tear that had interrupted the past two seasons. Jenkins expressed relief about how his shoulder feels and said he expects to miss at least the first month of the regular season as he builds strength.
Cardinals relievers Randy Choate and Pat Neshek both warmed up for Friday’s game and were not used as starter Adam Wainwright covered eight innings. Choate may pitch in a minor-league game today to get work in against lefthanded batters. … Trevor Rosenthal, a day after warming up for a rally that never happened, secured his first save of spring with a scoreless ninth Friday. … Second baseman Mark Ellis (knee) could return to the lineup as soon as today. The Cardinals do not expect the infielder to go this weekend without appearing in at least one game. … Cardinals starter Michael Wacha will make his second consecutive start of spring at Kissimmee, Fla., against Houston. This will be the last time the Cardinals face Houston before the first regular season in the Astros’ history without a series between the former division rivals.