The St. Louis Cardinals could soon have some other options in the bullpen at Busch Stadium.
Not only is former closer Jason Motte making steady progress in his recovery from a torn elbow ligament. But another former closer, David Aardsma, seems to be tuned up and ready to contribute at the major league level.
Motte, pitching in extended spring training, is throwing every other day and could go on a rehab assignment sometime in May, according to St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak. The GM reported that Motte is currently throwing his fastball at 92-94 miles an hour. Before the injury he typically topped out at 96 or 97.
Mozeliak said it is important for Motte to regain his arm strength before he's pushed into competition. Also a factor: Once he goes on a rehab assignment, the Cardinals have 30 days to add him to their 25-man roster. So the club doesn't want to push him too hard, have a setback and then be forced into a tough roster decision.
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Aardsma pitched a scoreless inning of relief Friday for Class AAA Memphis in an 8-0 rout of Round Rock and struck out two of the three hitters he faced.
For the season, Aardsma has an 0.93 ERA and has allowed five hits in 9 2/3 innings of work. He's struck out 10 and walked four. He's made nine appearances and three of the walks occurred in the first four. In his most recent five games, Aardsma has hurled five innings, hasn't allowed a hit or a run and has walked one while whiffing three.
Top prospect Oscar Taveras has been hot since returning from two days off as a precation after he turned his left ankle (not his troublesome right ankle) leaving the batters box.
Taveras was 2-for-5 Friday night for Memphis to raise his batting average to .303 for the season with four doubles, three homers and 12 runs batted in. He played centerfield for the third time this week.
Joey Butler was 2-for-3 in the Friday night contest to raise his average to .444 while Stephen Piscotty was 2-for-5 to improve to .338 with five doubles and two homers. Randal Grichuk had one hit in five at-bats Friday. He's batting .329 with eight doubles, a triple, three homers and 17 batted in.
Mozeliak has played it coy, saying that the Cardinals don't have any immediate plans to bring up a minor league outfielder to fortify a sagging offense that has scored three runs or less in more than half of St. Louis' games. He sarcastically asked reporters if he should sit Matt Holliday to plug in an outfielder and said, if not, the youngster who should be playing every day would be marooned on the bench.
Really? What about the guy in right field who is sitting .179 -- or better yet, the guy you traded for to be the staring centerfielder who is batting .174? Is it a coincidence that Taveras hadn't played center until this week. And now he's played his last three games in a row there?
Taveras could start in center four or five days a week, give Holliday a day off in left another day and Allen Craig a break in right another to be a full time player with no problems. Then Jon Jay, who reacquired his starting job in center from Peter Bourjos, could return to a role of being the fourth outfielder, which is where the team seemed this spring to desire he would fit in.