Motte an obvious choice to close games

By Jenifer Langosch and Matthew Leach / | 01/15/12 7:15 PM EST

ST. LOUIS -- World Series champion isn't the only title Jason Motte is set to shoulder in 2012. There's this new closer tag now attached to his name, too.
The role isn't a foreign one, but the associated label is one that Motte never had in front of his name in 2011. By the time the carousel of closers reached Motte late in 2011, then-manager Tony La Russa was done designating anyone as his closer. That refusal continued into the postseason, though by then, it was obvious that Motte was going to handle the ninth-inning duties, regardless of what he was or was not called.
Motte, who allowed a hit in just three of his 13 postseason appearances, recorded five October saves. It left him as the front-runner to be the team's closer moving forward, and new manager Mike Matheny has since freely utilized the word 'closer' when discussing Motte's role.

Though perhaps flattering, that public affirmation is mostly insignificant to Motte, who understands titles can be fickle if not backed up with adequate results.
"I don't look at it any different," Motte said. "I have to go in there and get myself ready for spring, do what I need to do to get my arm ready, to get my body ready. I'm trying to go out there and prove that I belong on the team. In this game, it doesn't matter what they call you. It's what you do out there on the field."
Motte does have one important order of business to take care of before he closes any games in 2012. Arbitration-eligible for the first time, he remains unsigned at the moment. Unless a deal is agreed upon before Wednesday, Motte and the Cardinals are prepared to exchange salary figures later this week. Arbitration hearings will then take place during the first three weeks of February for any players who still haven't signed.
"I'm sure there are discussions going on, but my agent probably knows a little bit better than I do," Motte said. "I know there probably are discussions, but my job is to do it on the field. That's why I have an agent."
Holliday says wrist is '100 percent'

ST. LOUIS -- Matt Holliday said Sunday that he has no reservations or concerns about the health of his right wrist, 2 1/2 months after suffering an injury that forced him to miss Game 7 of the World Series.
Holliday got hurt during Game 6 of the World Series, rolling his wrist when he slid into third base to avoid a pickoff attempt in the sixth inning. He was removed from the roster for Game 7 in favor of Adron Chambers, a move that had to be approved by the Commissioner's Office.
Asked Sunday about the condition of his wrist, Holliday simply said, "100 percent."
He was speaking at the annual Cardinals Care Winter Warm-Up fan festival. Holliday said in October that if he had suffered the injury during the regular season, it would have required him to go on the 15-day disabled list.
Berkman not worried about rigors of first base

ST. LOUIS -- Lance Berkman did his best to put to rest concerns about his knees last spring, insisting that playing in the outfield would provide less wear and tear on his legs than he would have experienced playing first.
Now back at first base, Berkman is changing course.
"Yeah, I was just joking with y'all," Berkman said on Sunday. "It's just different. The outfield, you have more straight-line running. First base, there is a lot more lateral stops and starts, side-to-side, that kind of thing, a little more agility involved there. The wear and tear, it's probably not going to be a lot worse."
Berkman, who underwent left knee surgery in 2010, had no issues with his knees while playing 145 games for St. Louis last season. Despite the position switch, Berkman said that his offseason training remains similar to the regimen he implemented last winter.
"I think as you age, you learn that you have to be a little bit more conscious of how you prepare for the season," Berkman said. "I learned a lot about that last year. You have to balance it. You have to listen to your body and what it's telling you. I'll be ready to go when we open camp."
Miller aiming for big leagues in 2012

ST. LOUIS -- Shelby Miller was plenty forthright on Sunday in discussing his intentions of pitching in the big leagues before the end of the 2012 season. And if he, indeed, ascends to that level this year, Miller said he will arrive a much more mature version of his 2010 self.
Miller, the organization's top prospect and a first-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, is coming off another stellar Minor League season, but one that was marred by a late-season suspension. An off-the-field altercation involving alcohol was reportedly behind the suspension, which ended up keeping Miller off the mound for 12 days.
While the circumstance did not put the 21-year-old right-hander in particularly flattering headlines, Miller now says that the experience has impacted him in a positive way.
"I learned a lot of things," said Miller, who combined to go 11-6 with a 2.77 ERA in 25 high-A and Double-A starts. "Being away from the team was awful. I didn't like it at all. I went back to the field, and that was the best feeling I've ever had. I felt like I might have been working a little bit harder after that, just because I was put in that situation. I didn't want anyone to think I was a bad person. I came back strong, kept working hard the whole time."
Miller is likely to begin this season pitching out of Triple-A Memphis' rotation, a step up that will perhaps elicit his first taste of on-the-field adversity. He will participate in big league camp this spring, and said that he'd be agreeable to even shifting into the bullpen later in the year if it opens up an opportunity to pitch in St. Louis.
"I think that my time will come soon," Miller said. "I'm going to keep doing the right things, keep doing all the stuff, trying to get better as a pitcher, working with all my pitches -- and I think everything will fall into place."
Jay supports Brewers' Braun

ST. LOUIS -- As Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun continues to appeal a suspension under Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, he does so with the support of at least one college teammate.
Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay, who played with Braun at the University of Miami, said on Sunday that he has been in touch with his former teammate since word leaked last month that Braun tested positive for a banned substance during the 2011 season. Braun has since said through a spokesperson that the positive test was "highly unusual" and that he intends to have his name cleared and not serve a 50-game suspension.
"It's been a difficult situation for him because none of this stuff was supposed to come out," Jay said. "He is due his appeal process. He hasn't really had the chance to comment on everything because he has to let everything take its place. But I'm a big Ryan Braun supporter. He's one of those guys who has helped me out tremendously in my career, and we're great friends.
"It's an unfortunate situation right now, and hopefully everything can get cleared up."
A recent report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel stated that Braun's case would be heard by a panel of arbiters before the start of Spring Training.
Jay was taken in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, one year after the Brewers made Braun their first-round pick.
Worth noting

• Daniel Descalso remains in the mix for the Cardinals' starting second-base job. However, the 25-year-old infielder is not going to focus all his attention on solely that one position. He will get ample repetitions at shortstop and third base during Spring Training to keep up his versatility.
• Minor League first baseman Matt Adams confessed that he has purchased an outfield glove -- just in case. For now, though, that glove is doing nothing more than collecting dust.
Though the Cardinals have previously discussed the possibility of having Adams get some repetitions in the outfield -- particularly when his path to the Majors was blocked by Albert Pujols -- he said he has not yet done any such work. Adams is expected to begin the year as a first baseman in Triple-A.
• Left-hander Jaime Garcia was recognized by the city of McAllen, Texas, this offseason for his part in helping lead the Cardinals to a World Series championship. Dec. 6 was declared Jaime Garcia Day in McAllen, which also gave Garcia a key to the city.