Motte returns to Cardinals, hopes to earn bullpen spot
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) Beard and all, a most familiar face is back in the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse.
''Once I walked in, seeing the guys, seeing the coaches, it's like being back at home,'' reliever Jason Motte said Monday. ''This is where I started my career. This is where everything began.''
After signing a minor league deal over the weekend, Motte returned to the Cardinals for the first time since 2014.
The 35-year-old Motte began his professional career as catcher in the Cardinals' organization before making the switch to the mound. He took over the closer's role late in 2011 and was on the mound that fall, inducing a flyball from Texas' David Murphy for the final out in Game 7 of the World Series.
''He's been there, got some big outs for the Cardinals,'' St. Louis pitching coach Mike Maddux said.
Motte led the National League with 42 saves for the Cardinals in 2012. An elbow injury that required ligament replacement surgery caused him to miss all of 2013.
Upon his return, Motte posted a 4.68 ERA and didn't record a save in 29 appearances for the Cardinals before becoming a free agent.
Since leaving St. Louis, Motte pitched for the Chicago Cubs (2015) and Colorado (2016) before spending last season with Atlanta, recording a 3.54 ERA in 46 appearances.
Motte joins a Cardinal club whose back end of the bullpen remains a work in progress.
St. Louis released former closer Trevor Rosenthal and allowed 2017 closer Seung-Hwan Oh to leave via free agency during the offseason. The Cardinals signed Luke Gregerson to open the season as their closer and last week signed free agent Bud Norris, who saved 19 games for the Angels last season and could factor into the Cardinals' late-inning plans.
The Cardinals have yet to define bullpen roles this spring.
''I'm not here to hang out for six weeks in spring training and be like, `hey, appreciate it,''' Motte said. ''I'm here to go out and make the team, have a good year, help the team win. At the end of the day that's what we're all here for.''
Motte now makes his home in the Memphis area, home of the Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate. Should the Cardinals ask Motte to begin the season with Memphis, he would do so.
In nine seasons Motte owns a 27-15 record with 60 saves and a 3.30 ERA.
St. Louis issued Motte jersey No. 30, the same number he wore during his first tenure with the club.
''The opportunity to put this uniform back on again is pretty awesome,'' Motte said.