JUPITER, Fla. -- Twelve pitchers were designated to throw during the Cardinals' workouts on Friday, including rehabbing reliever Jason Motte. But he did not get on the mound like the other 11, rather taking his throwing session to the outfield grass of Field 1 for the latest step forward in his rehab program.
For the first time since November, Motte played flat-ground catch at a distance of 120 feet. He intends to do so again on Monday -- assuming his arm responds well -- and will determine the next step after that.
Following a prescribed break from his throwing program, Motte has been playing catch for three-and-a-half weeks now. He has challenged himself from distances of 60, 90 and 120 feet and has had no setbacks along the way.
As for a long-term plan, there is not a detailed one. Motte's progression will be determined by how he feels, with no insistence that he reach certain benchmarks by certain dates. With that being the case, Motte is not yet sure when he will progress to throwing off the mound.
"You want to take your time and make sure that you're strong and that you're ready to do what you need to do out there," Motte said. "It's cliché and whatever, but I'm really just taking it one day at a time because that's all I can do. It's all about doing the steps. It's a process. It's a slow process."
Avoiding the distraction of setting time-specific goals, Motte said he has not thought much about when he'll throw his first pitch since 2012. He conceded that it is unlikely that he'd be ready to break camp with the team, a comment that is not much of a surprise given the typical 12-16 month recovery time from Tommy John surgery. Motte underwent the procedure last May.
"It's the middle of February and I'm tossing at 120 feet," Motte said. "To be on the mound in a big league ballgame in six weeks from tossing would be a pretty good feat for anyone. Especially coming back from this, you don't want to just try it out, see how it works. The whole point of all this is to get healthy and be able to pitch and be effective and help these guys. Opening Day may be a possibility ... but I wouldn't think [so]."
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.