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Cardinals sign Jason Motte to minor-league deal

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The Cardinals picked up free agent reliever Jason Motte on a minor-league deal, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday. The contract comes with an invitation to camp, but won’t be official until Motte passes his physical on Monday.

It’s a homecoming of sorts for the 35-year-old right-hander, who started his major league career with the Cardinals back in 2008 and last pitched for them in 2014. He bounced around the National League during the last few years, settling on a one-year gig with the Braves in 2017 and turning in a 3.54 ERA and career-worst 4.4 BB/9 and 6.0 SO/9 in 40 2/3 innings. While Motte hasn’t suffered any major setbacks since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013, he isn’t exactly the sub-3.00 ERA, 40+ saves closer of years past, nor is he expected to return to peak form with the Cardinals in 2018.

That may not matter much, however, as the Cardinals begin camp with few defined roles in the bullpen. Per Joe Trezza of MLB.com, veteran reliever Luke Gregerson is likely the team’s first choice for closer, though manager Mike Matheny admitted that he’s open to switching things up if left-hander Tyler Lyons or right-handers Bud Norris, Conner Greene, Dominic Leone or Sam Tuivailala makes a better impression this spring. Presumably, that group will expand to include Motte as well.