Jason Motte Getty

Jason Motte faces hitters for first time since Tommy John surgery

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Jason Motte isn’t expected to join the Cardinals bullpen until May, but he took an important step yesterday in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the bearded reliever faced live hitters for the first time in a year.

Motte threw about 20 pitches to a group of Cardinals minor leaguers. While he wasn’t happy with his control, that’s not unexpected at this point of the rehab process. The most important thing is that he felt good.

“It was definitely more intense,” said Motte, who is recovering from elbow reconstruction surgery. “It was more effort, more adrenaline than just throwing a bullpen (session). It felt good. It feels good now. It’s not like I walked off the mound and it was miserable.

“Each day we’re taking steps forward and today was a big step.”

Assuming Motte bounces back OK, the plan calls for him to throw to hitters again in three days. Cardinals pitching coach Derek Lilliquist said he’ll need to get through about three or four sessions before being cleared for game action, after which he’ll need to get through a handful of rehab appearances before joining the big club. The St. Louis bullpen is already pretty stacked, but they’ll be even scarier if Motte can return to form.

Doesn’t anyone want to sign Edwin Encarnacion?

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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OXON HILL, MD — Edwin Encarnacion began the offseason as, arguably, the second most desirable free agent on the market. As the Winter Meetings approach their end, however, he is a man without a team. And may not have a team any time soon.

Many teams have been rumored to be checking in on Encarnacion, but the defining trait of his free agency thus far has been clubs taking a pass. The most recent one being the Rangers, who are reported to simply not have the money to sign him, despite him filling a clear offensive need in Texas. Maybe the Rangers would be more competitive on the free agent market if they had a new stadium. Who knows?

The Blue Jays, for whom he most recently played, offered him a four-year, $80 million deal that most figured was a lowball, and when he rejected it, they moved on to Kendrys Morales. The Red Sox acquired Mitch Moreland. The Yankees are reported to be passing. The most recent team linked to Encarnacion is the Indians, who are reported to have an offer out to him, but at this point it’s likely far lower than what most free agent watchers thought he might get a few weeks ago. A four-year, $90 million deal did not seem crazy for him in October. In December, there is speculation that he could be had for $60 million over that same term which, frankly, would be a bargain. That’s less than Mark Melancon, the third best closer on the market, got from the Giants.

There have been a lot of remarkable things that have happened in the past few weeks, but one of the most unexpected things would be one of the top bats in the game getting second-tier closer money.

Late Athletics broadcaster Bill King wins the Ford C. Frick Award

bill-king
CSN Bay Area
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OXON HILL, MD — Bill King has been selected as the 2017 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

King, one of the iconic voices of Bay Area sports, was known for his handlebar mustache and his signature “Holy Toledo!” exclamation. King broadcast A’s games for 25 seasons, from 1981 through 2005. He likewise broadcast Oakland Raiders and Golden State Warriors games and got his start as an announcer for the Giants in the late 1950s after they moved to San Francisco.

King passed away in October 2005. With the Frick Award, however, he has now been immortalized among baseball broadcasters.