JUPITER, Fla. — Jason Motte's throwing program reached a new level Tuesday morning.
The St. Louis Cardinals reliever, recovering from Tommy John surgery, threw what he described as his most intense bullpen session this spring.
"This time and last time were probably pretty close," Motte said. "This time was probably a little bit more (intense). I felt like it was a little easier to get to that point today, whereas last time I was still trying to feel it out.
"But it feels good and we'll see what the next step is. We'll see how it feels tomorrow and we'll go from there."
The next step for Motte could be throwing to hitters for the first time, although he didn't rule out another bullpen session. The Cardinals have not projected a return date for Motte.
"A lot of it now is recovery and how I feel the next day," he said. "As we've taken steps up, I've felt good. We've been moving it forward because the way I've recovered has felt good. There hasn't been any day where I've come back ... and been like, 'Oh, man, this is not good at all.'"
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was encouraged.
"He's at higher velocity, higher intensity each time out," Matheny said. "So today, he's getting real close (to facing hitters). He's on track, if not a little bit ahead. (But) we need to make sure we're not throwing expectations out there that he feels he has to meet before he's already met the previous hurdle."
Motte said throwing to hitters will be "completely different."
"When we do get to hitters, there will be that extra ramping it up just because it's just something that happens naturally," Motte said. "It's hard for me to go 100 percent in the bullpen. There's a whole (new) level when a batter gets in there. There's also a level of soreness and all that other fun stuff that goes with that."
Adams sheds weight
An offseason diet, free of carbohydrates and sugar, has positioned first baseman Matt Adams for a breakout season.
Adams, who swatted 17 home runs in 296 at-bats last season, has reduced his body fat by 7 1/2 percent, which he hopes will sustain him for the long haul as he takes over as a starter.
"I had a strict diet and a good training session in the offseason," Adams said. "I came in about 10 pounds lighter, but I lost a lot of body fat. That was a key for me. I wanted to get my body right, knowing that 162 games is a long season. I wanted to be able to make sure my body was healthy coming into this year."
Once the season begins March 31, Adams said carbohydrates and sugar will make modest returns to his diet.
"In the season, you've got to have some of that stuff or you won't have any energy to play," Adams said. "I'm still monitoring it, still watching it pretty closely, just so I won't put that weight back on. But I feel good right now."
Adams is listed at 230 pounds, down from 260 last season.
"He looks great, but it's not like he whittled away to nothing," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He's still a big fella.
"What he's hoping for ... is to just be on the field," he said. "Matt's at that point in his career. He realizes that he needs to figure out a way to be on the field as often as he can in order to put up the kind of numbers (he wants) and to be the kind of impact this team needs."
Matheny endorsed Adams' weight loss.
"Any time we have a guy on this club that commits to diet, commits to a workout regimen, it's always opened up the door for scrutiny," Matheny said. "But I don't think it's legitimate because they're working hard to get better and they've made a lot of sacrifices to get there. Hopefully, Matt sticks with it."
Matheny abruptly quit answering a question Tuesday morning when he saw second baseman Kolten Wong perform a backflip after players had completed their stretching on the main field.
"Did you guys see that?" Matheny said. "Wong just stood there flat-footed and did a backflip. That was like effortless. That was impressive. I don't even know what we were talking about."
Wong, for teammates who missed his first backflip, performed another one before heading to the cage for batting practice. He said he learned how to do backflips as a college student at Hawaii.
"My fiance, her roommate in college worked at a gymnastics place where we would go every Friday," Wong said. "I think it was like, 'Free Jump Friday.' I told her to teach me how to do a backflip. So we just worked every Friday and it kind of came after six or seven times going. It took some guts to finally buy into it.
"Everybody kind of doubts me when I first tell them (I can do it). Then they're like, 'Whoa! I didn't know you could do that.'"
Wong also dazzled in the loss to the Mets, going 2-for-5 with a home run --his first of the spring --and a fine defensive play.