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Motte ramps up intensity in latest BP session

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Reliever Jason Motte took another step Monday toward his long-anticipated return, successfully navigating his second live batting-practice session at the team facilities in Jupiter, Fla.

Motte ramped up the intensity, throwing 20-25 pitches to Minor Leaguers Nick Longmire and Bruce Caldwell. Catcher Carson Kelly caught Motte, while pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and many of the Cards' pitchers who didn't make the trip to Fort Myers for Monday's game against the Red Sox watched from behind the batting cage.

"I'm pretty close [to maxing out]," Motte said when asked where he felt he was at in his rehab. "There is no radar gun, but I felt pretty good. It was 100 percent of what I had today. What percentage that is overall, I'm not sure."

Motte added that he thought less about the actual pitching process this time around, instead regaining enough trust in his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) to just naturally deliver the baseball -- another major step in the lengthy recovery process stemming from last May's Tommy John surgery.

"I think last time I was a little tentative, a little hesitant … [but] last time was already a big step," Motte said. "The hitters are swinging. It doesn't matter if it's Minor League guys or big league guys -- if they get a good pitch, they're going to put a good swing on it."

As for what's next, the right-hander will throw another live batting-practice session on Friday, during which he expects the intensity to increase yet again. From there, Motte is projected to start the season in extended spring training before going on a Minor League rehab assignment.

Motte, who underwent surgery in early May, remains on track to be ready within the typical 12-month recovery timetable. At the same time, however, he said he wouldn't rule out a potential earlier return, given how well he felt following Monday's session.

"It also depends on the next couple weeks," Motte said. "I may go out and feel great tomorrow then in the next live BP, be spot on. There is still some throwing that can be done in the next two weeks.

"You want to be able to pitch. You want to be in big situations. You want to help the team win. That may happen the first week in April or not. I'm not really putting anything out of the realm of possibility, because we've recovered pretty well."

Paul Casella is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella. Jenifer Langosch contributed to this report.

St. Louis Cardinals, Jason Motte