Jason Motte was always known for having a long, bushy beard on the bump. After signing a minor league contract earlier this month, he’s found his way back to the majors with the Atlanta Braves, but this time without his whiskers.
He resembled a mountain man or maybe a member of a stone-cold biker gang thanks to the wispy strands of brown hair dangling from his chin.
The last time Motte boasted a bare face was early his career, back when he first sported a St. Louis Cardinals uniform. Since then, the former fireballing closer for the Redbirds has pitched for a few different clubs, including the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies.
But none of his former clubs forced him to make this type of commitment.
That shouldn’t be too difficult, considering that Atlanta owns a less-than-stellar bullpen crew. The Braves’ relievers rank 11th in ERA in the National League and are tied for the most blown saves at four.
However, Motte’s own numbers haven’t been eye-catching since 2012 when he converted 42 saves for St. Louis. His ERA in each of the previous three seasons has been higher than 3.90 overall.
Those unappealing numbers probably stem from the fact that he hasn’t missed many bats. In his prime, he compiled a WHIP lower than one, allowing about six hits per nine innings. But since 2014, he’s yielded at least 8.9 hits per nine innings and his strikeout rate has dropped dramatically.
Still, his experience in the pen makes him a more appealing choice late in the game compared to Atlanta’s current options in Jim Johnson and Arodys Vizcaino. No Braves pitcher has notched more than 25 saves since Craig Kimbrel left town.
Even though Motte has served as the closer during just one season in his career, he has plenty of innings under his belt in late-game situations and a 3.28 career ERA. If all else fails, he could be used as a trade piece once the trade deadline arrives for a contender.
It would be interesting to see if a team’s no-shave rule would be a factor in a future trade.