As we have been reminded many times before, no Major League Baseball player should be considered indispensable. Yet, I was among the many who were extremely worried this spring when St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Motte’s injured elbow ultimately required season-ending surgery.
Fortunately, others stepped into the void. First, Mitchell Boggs, albeit briefly. Edward Mujica then held down the fort for months before running out of gas. Later on, Trevor Rosenthal showed he was ready to ensure that ninth inning pitching continued to rarely be the reason for a Cardinals loss in 2013.
Still, Motte was missed. Had the others been able to play set up roles in front of him, other games lost in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings might have been won.
Motte’s 2013 started extremely well. On January 22, the Cardinals announced that he had agreed to a new, two-year contract for the 2013 and 2014 seasons worth $12 million. The deal avoided salary arbitration both years and settled his pay in his final pre-free agent season in 2014.
His problems followed relatively quickly, however. It began on March 22, when the right-hander suffered what was originally diagnosed as a mild elbow strain in a spring training contest.
The rest and rehab route was initially chosen, but a subsequent MRI taken in April once swelling subsided indicated a low-grade ligament tear. The club announced that if the injury did not improve over the next three weeks, by May 1, season-ending Tommy John surgery may be prescribed.
The deadline was extended as Motte played catch while trying to work his way back. But, the seemingly-inevitable date with the surgeon arrived on May 6. The 31-year-old’s Tommy John procedure meant he would miss the remainder of 2013 and likely carry into 2014, as well.
All reports on Motte’s rehab have been positive. Recovery rates from the procedure have been high, but not 100 percent. The Cardinals have already announced that Rosenthal will open the 2014 season as closer. Whether or not Motte regains that role during the final season of his current contract and what that might mean for his future will surely bear watching.