8/2/2014 7:15 P.M. ET
Homers aside, Motte returning to form
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Though some of his progress has been overshadowed by the number of pitches that have left the park, reliever Jason Motte does feel as though he's moving closer to pre-injury form as he continues to distance himself from the rehab process.
The road back has been challenging for Motte, who returned from Tommy John surgery on May 21, a little more than 12 months after undergoing the procedure. Though it's a part of the recovery process that often goes unacknowledged, Motte -- like Adam Wainwright did two years ago -- quickly learned that it takes time for velocity and command to come back.
"I was thinking about it the other day -- that this feels like my 2009 season," Motte said. "In '08 I came up at the end of the year and had a good September. And then in '09, I really had to learn how to pitch. And learning how to pitch up here is tough. I have kept the same mind-set that I'm 14 months out of it and I'm still trying to learn what I need to do and how I need to do it. This is a tough classroom."
Motte's strikeout-to-walk ratio -- 3.55 before surgery, 2.00 since -- has dropped considerably, though it's the frequency of the home runs hit off him that has stood out, as he has allowed seven in 22 innings. His homers-per-nine inning rate over the first five seasons of his career was 0.9. In his last eight appearances, he has been taken deep four times.
"It seems like I go out there and have a good outing except for one pitch," he said. "Other than that, I feel like the ball is coming out better. I feel like I'm using my stuff better. It's been one pitch. Some of the velocity stuff might have something to do with it. That's all part of the process, not just getting your velocity back but also getting your location."
Motte's velocity has been climbing, which is encouraging. He averaged 93 mph on his four-seam fastball in his season debut but, according to brooksbaseball.net, has averaged 95-96 on the pitch over the past six weeks. There is room for that velocity to tick a bit higher, though he is more concerned with finding consistent command.
"I am," manager Mike Matheny said when asked if he is seeing Motte take steps forward. "He's probably not buying it, and most people listening or reading this probably won't buy it, but there have been a couple of outings where we see hints of it, and then all of a sudden, you do see a homer, which clouds or muddies the water of how good he was up until that point.
"I think it's real easy to start to forget that this is the first year out, and historically, guys that do that are going to be doing just what he's doing. It just isn't that easy. Jason is making good steps, and he just needs to continue. We need to keep getting him work. It might not be in the role that he wants, but it's going to be work that helps him in the process of getting him back to where he was."
Sore wrist could keep Jay on bench through Tuesday
ST. LOUIS -- A sore left wrist kept center fielder Jon Jay out of the lineup for a fourth straight day on Saturday, and manager Mike Matheny acknowledged that Jay may not start again until Tuesday.
Jay, who did not see any improvement on Saturday, has been bothered by the soreness since attempting to check his swing during an at-bat in the Cardinals' last series. Matheny hasn't ruled out the possibility of starting him on Sunday, though with an off-day on Monday, sitting Jay for another day would allow additional healing time.
"We'll take all that into consideration and see how he keeps progressing," Matheny said. "It's been something that has been bothering him here for a while. It's one of those things that needs a little time, and he continues to get treatment, and it seems to be getting better."
Though Jay has not hit since his start on Tuesday, Matheny would consider using him off the bench in a pinch-hit situation on Saturday.
• Since opening the second half of the season with two straight multihit games, Kolten Wong is 6-for-36 with 13 strikeouts in his past 10, with a trio of three-strikeout games during that stretch. Matheny considered giving Wong a day off on Saturday but opted to leave him in because of his previous success (2-for-3) against Brewers starter Kyle Lohse.
• The Red Sox finalized their rotation plans for the upcoming series and confirmed that Joe Kelly will start against the Cardinals on Wednesday. That lines him up to pitch against his close friend, Shelby Miller. The two were both members of the Cardinals' 2009 Draft class, and each served as a groomsman in the other's wedding last November.
• Right-hander Andrew Morales, the 71st overall pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, made his high Class A debut with Palm Beach (Fla.) on Friday. He allowed one run on two hits in three innings, striking out three and walking none.
• Outfielder Stephen Piscotty snapped an 0-for-16 streak with a home run in the ninth inning of Triple-A Memphis' loss on Friday. The homer was his seventh of the season.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.