Notes: Motte a quick study on the mound
Former catcher moving swiftly through Cardinals farm system
JUPITER, Fla. -- Back when Jason Motte was a catcher in the Cardinals system, it didn't take a scout to see that he might have a future on the mound. Even a teammate could figure it out.
Motte "threw the ball back harder than me," said Cards righty Brad Thompson, who played with Motte at Class A Peoria in 2003.
The Cardinals first brought up the possibility of a move in 2005, but Motte didn't want to give up catching. But as his offensive struggles continued, Motte finally saw the light. Actually, by early the next season, he didn't have a choice. The organization made it for him.
"In '05 I broke my thumb right after the All-Star break," Motte recalls. "I came back in '06, and I was struggling hitting. Moved to Double-A, then came back [to Class A] a month into the season. They all brought me in when we were in Clearwater with the Palm Beach team, and they were like, 'Hey, you're pitching.'"
It was the right move. Motte, a career .191 hitter (with a .220 on-base percentage), has rocketed through the system since he began pitching. In a season and a half, he's soared from short-season Class A to Double-A, and he'll likely start 2008 at Triple-A Memphis. He throws a two-seam fastball that can reach the high 90s mph, and he has a developing slider.
He also has some interested observers. Jason Isringhausen and Russ Springer trekked out to Field 3 at the Roger Dean Stadium complex to watch Motte throw live batting practice on Monday, and they were impressed. One particular fastball from Motte drew wide eyes from Isringhausen and Springer.
Chris Carpenter watched, too, and then offered some tips to the youngster as they walked back to the clubhouse.
"He can definitely throw it," Carpenter said. "But he's obviously got to locate still, and do things like that. He's still new to what he's doing. It's impressive to have an arm like that, but you've still got to do things like make adjustments and locate."
Honel works out: The Cardinals took a look at an interesting arm on Monday. Right-hander Kris Honel, a former first-round pick of the Chicago White Sox, threw off a mound for a group of Cards front-office representatives.
Honel was drafted out of a Chicago-area high school in 2001 and rose quickly through the Sox system, and in 2003 he enjoyed an outstanding season split between high Class A and Double-A. Since then, however, he has battled injuries and control problems. He spent 2007 at Chicago's Double-A Birmingham affiliate, where he walked 52 batters in 60 2/3 innings. The Cardinals view Honel as a reliever in their system, if they do in fact sign him.
Manager Tony La Russa said he values Jimenez's experience, and disregard's Jimenez's reputation as a lackadaisical player.
"I know at times he's looked different than at other times," La Russa said. "I've never heard that he's some kind of negative influence, and if I had, I wouldn't pay attention anyway. It's what he is for you."
Come on down: Mike Matheny has been helping out the Cardinals coaching staff since the beginning of Spring Training, and La Russa hopes the former Redbird will drop by Busch Stadium during the season as well. Matheny's friend and old teammate, Cal Eldred, periodically shows up to help throw batting practice and generally serve as a good influence. The hope is that Matheny will do the same.
"He's always been reluctant to interfere," La Russa said. "But now that we've opened the door and he's been in our uniform as a coach, I'm really hoping that at least once every homestand or every second homestand without penalizing his family -- and that's really the issue -- that he'll come by and help out."
Arriving outfielders: A couple of greats of the game arrived in Cardinals camp on Monday. Lou Brock drove up late in the morning and was greeted with his usual hero's welcome, in advance of his work as a special instructor. Larry Walker, who lives nearby, also made his first visit of the year to Roger Dean Stadium. Walker dressed out and will also serve as a special instructor.
Pitching matchups: They'll only be in the game for a couple innings each, but Friday's game at Port St. Lucie will feature a matchup of aces and Opening Day starters. The Cardinals will be the first opponent to face Johan Santana with Santana wearing a Mets uniform. Santana's opponent will be Cards No. 1 Adam Wainwright. Thursday's exhibition opener will feature John Maine pitching for the Mets, going against St. Louis' Anthony Reyes.
Weather report: Things may turn later in the week, but for now it's still pretty close to perfect in Jupiter. Tuesday's forecast calls for a high in the lower 80s, bright sunshine in the morning and a few clouds moving in by early afternoon.
Coming up: Tuesday is the last day before the Cardinals take to the field for a game. On Wednesday, they'll face St. Louis University in an exhibition game at Roger Dean Stadium, followed by the Grapefruit League opener on Thursday against the Mets, also in Jupiter.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.