Who’s Got The Motte?

Jason Motte continues to progress from his Tommy John surgery.  He has been pitching since May 4 and pitching pretty well.  In four appearances with Springfield, he’s faced 13 hitters, allowed a walk and a hit, and struck out three.  Promoted to Memphis this past Tuesday, he’s made two additional appearances, allowed two hits, and struck out two of the 11 hitters he’s attacked.  It’s widely expected he’ll be back with the Cardinals by the end of the month.

This raises two questions – who gets sent out when he comes back, and what will Motte’s role be upon his return?

The first part is fairly easy to answer.  Sam Freeman and Jose Rondon are the two most recent additions to the Major League roster.  It stands to reason they’re the most likely to get sent back down when Motte returns.  If I had to pick one, it’d probably be Freeman; I don’t think the Cardinals intend to carry 3 left handed relievers in their bullpen.  Frankly I’d rather see Randy Choate get DFA’d, but you can’t always get what you want.

The other question is more nuanced.  Motte was the closer before he went down with injury.  Edward Mujica was lights out as his replacement for most of 2013; when Ed finally ran out of gas, Trevor Rosenthal stepped in and did/has done a tremendous job.  Since earning his first save on 23 Sept 13, Rosenthal has converted the save every time save one; of course, that one was Tuesday against Chicago.

Basically Rosenthal has done nothing to earn a demotion from the closer role.  Well almost nothing.  Concerning is his xFIP (4.23) almost matches his ERA (4.74).  Compare that to his scintillating 2.68/2.34 from last year.  Also, his walk rate is WAY up so far in 2014; on average he’s walking close to 6 hitters per nine innings.  Still, he’s managed to pitch around most of that and get the job done.  Granted, the fan base is chugging Maalox and keeping the Nitro on the end table, as was the case last Sunday, but were a result based business right?

Would the Cardinals consider moving Motte back into the closer role and shifting Rosenthal to set-up?  Maybe.  What’s more likely is Motte will return to pitch the seventh to start, and then see how it develops.  It’s nice to have an embarrassment of riches on the mound.

Now if the offense would just heat up.

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