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Wednesday 28th Jun 2017

One has to be very careful not to read too much into injury-related news coming out of spring training camps. Let’s take the St. Louis Cardinals as an example.

Just a few days ago, Jaime Garcia was telling anyone and everyone how good his surgically-repaired left shoulder was feeling. Next thing we heard, he was on his way to get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews - before the first official Grapefruit League game was played.

Then we have former closer Jason Motte, coming back from Tommy John surgery. The messages may have appeared to be mixed, but not if you have been paying close attention.

On February 8, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Motte would begin spring training behind the team's other relievers, but the team believed that it was possible he would be ready for the start of the regular season since he would not need as much time to build up stamina.

On Tuesday, February 18, Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch said Motte’s throwing plan was “on the fast track.” He spoke with an excited Cardinals pitching coach Derek Lilliquist about Motte.

"He's ahead of schedule, based on the indications I got before spring," said Lilliquist. "You would conceivably say he's a week behind (the other pitchers). Did you see him throw today? The ball's coming out great."

With a bandwidth of possible return dates following any surgery, including this one, some may have become too optimistic.

A number of sites that integrate news from first-reporters - some but not all of which are packaged for the fantasy baseball player – focused more on the first part of Lilliquist’s comment. They interpreted that Motte being ahead of schedule reinforced the earlier reports that he would be ready to be activated to start the regular season.

Motte threw a bullpen on Sunday, February 23. Though it was considered a good sign, the reliever was cautionary. "It's a baby step," Motte told MLB.com. "Ramping it up too fast right now wouldn't do anyone any good.”

On Monday, February 24, the Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz furthered the optimism when he said, “there's a good chance Motte will be part of the staff on opening day.”

On Tuesday afternoon, February 25, Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch provided some new news, reporting that “Motte had a brief setback in his throwing before camp. That has caused a lag in his schedule that he could make up, but as of right now he would not be ready for opening day.”

Motte himself admitted that it would be "a push" for him to be ready to start the season.

Interestingly, back on February 16, even before he was said to be ahead of schedule, Motte did not acknowledge having a pre-camp setback, brief or not. In fact, he talked about taking precautions to avoid that very thing.

"I've been throwing for three weeks; this is the 10th time that I've thrown," Motte told Goold in mid-February. "You take anyone throwing 10 times you're not going to hop on the mound and air it out to see how it feels. That's an easy way to have a setback. Really, if you want a setback really hop on the mound and fire 15 real quick. It's one of those things where we're still taking it slow. Still taking our time."

For what it is worth, I agree with those who see no reason to take unnecessary risk with Motte to make a certain date. From a fantasy perspective, Motte has to be considered a setup man with good ratios, but would need an injury or a period of ineffectiveness from Trevor Rosenthal to regain his job and mixed league relevance in 2014. A free agent following the season, Motte could end up closing elsewhere in 2015.

In reality, the bottom line of Motte’s current injury status is no different from what the pitcher has been saying all along. He never said he would be ready to start the season. Others said it for him. My caution is to listen to what the players are saying directly as much as possible this spring. 

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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