Jason Motte made his first appearance in over a year, throwing one and two-thirds shutout innings in the Cardinals’ 3-2 win on Wednesday. In what was a strange night — the Cardinals were 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position, they recorded two run saving outs at the plate and Michael Wacha was struck in the arm with a foul ball — the Cardinals really benefited from having another trustworthy arm in the bullpen.
Jaime Garcia returned last week and Motte rejoined the team on Tuesday. With these additions, the Cardinals are approaching full strength which is good news for a few overworked arms in their bullpen.
If there is a complaint to have with Mike Matheny, a manager who has been to two National League Championship Series in two years, it is his predictable use of his bullpen. If the game is close in the seventh inning he will use Kevin Siegrist. If it is still close in the eighth he will use Carlos Martinez. If any of those guys get in trouble, he will use Pat Neshek against righties and Randy Choate against lefties. And if the Cardinals are winning by 3 or fewer in the ninth inning, he will use Trevor Rosenthal even if he has pitched for three straight days.
As a result of this style, the Cardinals have four relievers with more than 20 appearances. Three of those four have ERAs over 3.75 this year and two of them have blown saves in the last five days. Even with all of the overworking the Cardinals’ bullpen has the fifth best WHIP and has allowed the second fewest home runs of any National league bullpen.
What Motte brings, beyond his live arm, is another arm that Matheny trusts. Last year, the Cardinals lost all confidence in Edward Mujica and Shelby Miller but left them on the playoff roster. They never really looked to use either guy and had a shorthanded bullpen throughout the playoffs and into the World Series. With the World Series that was so close, you would think Mike Matheny would have learned his lesson but he clearly hasn’t.
If Jason Motte can take some stress off of the young flamethrowers in the bullpen until they can get Joe Kelly back from the DL, the Cardinals’ bullpen can go from being a weakness to being a strength.