JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals' continued search for bullpen help led them to an old friend as the club officially agreed to terms on a Minor League deal with right-hander Jason Motte on Monday.The deal includes an invite to Major League Spring Training, where Motte will join a crowded field
JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals' continued search for bullpen help led them to an old friend as the club officially agreed to terms on a Minor League deal with right-hander Jason Motte on Monday.
The deal includes an invite to Major League Spring Training, where Motte will join a crowded field of pitchers vying for bullpen roles.
"If it was meant to be, someone was going to call," Motte said. "If not, I'd be home on carpool duty like I have been all offseason. I'm obviously glad to be here and be playing."
• Cardinals' Spring Training info
A former fan favorite in St. Louis, Motte steadily climbed the Cardinals' bullpen depth chart for six seasons after debuting with the club in 2008, elevating to the closer role late during the '11 season and finishing with a National League-best 42 saves in '12, with a 2.75 ERA and a career-high 72 innings. Using predominantly a fastball that could reach triple digits, Motte struck out 10.8 batters per nine innings that season, walking just 2.1 batters per nine.
"I'm not throwing 101 [mph] anymore, but even when I was throwing really, really fast, you have to locate," Motte said. "I learned that early on. In 2008, 2009, 2010, I was in the upper 90s, 100, but if you throw down the middle, these guys are going to hit it. I kept them off balance by throwing in, out, up, down, then my cutter started coming around. The difference is now, I may not be throwing 100."
Motte tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow the next spring and subsequently missed the entire 2013 season. He struggled to regain his old velocity after that, and his production suffered. With a fastball Statcast™ tracked at an average of 93.7 mph last season, Motte's strikeout rate (6.0 K/9) ranked among the Majors' lowest for a full-time reliever.
The 35-year-old returns to St. Louis after consecutive one-year stints with the Cubs, Rockies and Braves, during which he posted a 3.99 ERA. Motte went 1-0 with a 3.54 ERA over 46 appearances for Atlanta in 2017.
A former collegiate catcher, the Cardinals selected Motte in the 19th round of the 2003 Draft out of Iona College. He converted to pitching three years later, and by '11, he was pitching in the World Series. The image of Motte, arms open in celebration after the Cardinals recorded the final out in Game 7, remains an iconic image around Busch Stadium.
"I still think I got something there," Motte said. "You have to locate, keep them off balance. Balls that get hit hard are balls not executed."
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @joetrezz.