JUPITER, Fla. -- On Monday, Jason Motte threw a bullpen session at his highest intensity yet, putting him on the verge of being cleared for the next step in his rehab process -- facing hitters in batting practice.
"Today was a good day," Motte said. "I felt like it was a little easier to get to that [higher intensity] point today, whereas last time I was still trying to feel it out. I feel good. We'll see what the next step is, and I'll see how I feel tomorrow, and we'll go from there."
Motte has been throwing to a crouching catcher for about three weeks, and the Cardinals have intentionally kept his throwing program fluid so that they could improvise depending upon how he feels. To this point there have been no significant setbacks.
"I think he's progressing well and he's almost at a higher velocity, higher intensity each time out," manager Mike Matheny said.
The Cardinals haven't ruled out getting Motte work in a spring game if he is able to pass every other checkpoint before the team heads north. He'd need to throw batting practice two (or possibly more) times before a Grapefruit League relief appearance would even be considered. The Cardinals could choose to keep him out of Major League Spring Training games so that they have the flexibility to backdate a stint on the disabled list, if desired. He'd still be able to appear in Minor League contests.
Having Motte face hitters will give everyone a better idea of how long he will be sidelined.
"I think when we do get to hitters, there will be that extra ramping it up because it's just something that happens naturally," said Motte, who underwent elbow surgery in May 2013. "It's hard for me to go 100 percent in a bullpen. There's another level of adrenaline, and it cranks up a little bit when a batter gets in there."
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.