JUPITER, Fla. • Cardinals closer Jason Motte has what the club is describing as a "mild strain" in his right elbow that will keep him off the mound for at least week as the team explores the severity of the injury and potential treatments.
General manager John Mozeliak said Motte will "likely" start the season on the disabled list with the flexor muscle strain, which is considered a slight tear of the tendon. A magnetic resonance imaging scan take of the join showed no damage to the ligament, an official confirmed.
"Right now it's going to slow him down," Mozeliak said. "We're certainly going to be aggressive with the rehab. The DL is likely going to happen."
Manager Mike Matheny said Mitchell Boggs will get the first opportunity to serve as closer in Motte's absence. Trevor Rosenthal will likely move into Boggs' role at setup.
Motte's absence means the Cardinals' pitching staff is fairly certain for opening day, barring another unexpected injury. Fernando Salas, who has been impressive this spring, had a grip on one opening in the bullpen, and now either Shelby Miller or Joe Kelly -- the pitcher who isn't tabbed as the fifth starter -- will have a spot in the bullpen.
Motte, who became the Cardinals closer late in 2011, tied for the National League lead with 42 saves last season.
The righty last pitched Thursday. He threw an inning against the Mets. His final pitch of a scoreless inning was 97 mph.
He felt stiffness in his right elbow on the bus ride returning from Port St. Lucie, Fla. Motte described how the elbow felt sore as he reached for his cell phone and that led him to the trainers' room when he got back to the Jupiter complex.
"It tightened up a little bit in my forearm," Motte said. "I felt fine out there (on the mound). It says it's a little muscle strain, it's a little tight. I did all my arm stuff afterward (and) felt fine. I don't know if it was the adrenaline or whatever but I didn't feel anything when I was throwing."
The team has attacked the inflammation in the elbow with the usual treatments, Motte said: ice, stimulation, and some anti-inflammatory medicine.
It had increased by Friday morning, when the team then took him for an MRI of the joint. That was when the tear was discovered. The initial treatment is to tame the inflammation in the joint so that a clearer sense of the damage can be measured.
"We'll pray for a quick healing," Matheny said. "If that doesn't happen, someone else is going to take the position and make the most of it."
More as this story develops throughout the day here at StlToday.com.