New Cards manager avoids intrigue with Motte

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JUPITER, Fla. (AP) -- Jason Motte has already received a public vote of confidence from his manager.

Motte, who played a prominent role in the Cardinals' run to the 2011 World Series title, never could get former manager Tony La Russa to publicly acknowledge his role as the closer.

La Russa's intention was to avoid heaping undue pressure on Motte. New St. Louis manager Mike Matheny believes it's time for the hard-throwing righty to seize the role, and said early in camp that Motte was his closer.

"Jason's our closer, there's not a question about that right now," Matheny said. "And that's how we're setting this up for this spring."

Matheny said he understood "why things were handled as they were before," but he is not going to overlook Motte's success on the biggest stage.

"You just run off the momentum that happened at the end of that season last year and letting somebody know you have confidence in him," Matheny said. "Jason deserved that. You saw a bullpen come together. Why would you come in and do anything differently?"

Knowing the role is secured will not change Motte, not after watching the uncertainty last season. Eight different Cardinals recorded at least one save.

"It really doesn't change what I do," Motte said. "I still have to go out there and get people out. I got to prepare myself the same way."

The 29-year-old Motte was 5-2 with a 2.25 ERA and nine saves in 2011. He had eight saves in September and followed that with five saves and a 2.19 ERA in the postseason.

The right-hander has the right makeup for the role, Cardinals pitching coach Derek Lilliquist said. He also has closer's stuff with a cut fastball, four-seamer and sinker.

"Motte's a unique individual," Lilliquist said. "He's always been a kid that no matter what happened during the course of that day he'd always come to the park the next day and it was like nothing ever happened."

Motte had 16 holds last season and had a streak from June 23 to Sept. 6 in which he did not allow a run, a span of 26.1 innings.

"When the phone rang the first time and it was the ninth inning, it was like, 'OK, here we go,'" Motte said.

Motte, who was converted from a catcher to a pitcher in 2006, had three saves in 184 career appearances prior to last August.

But the biggest moments came in October. For Motte, there was that memorable trip from the bullpen to the mound in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series.

"Walking down the ramp coming out of the bullpen, I did slow down to look around and take it all in a little bit," Motte said.

Motte pitched a perfect inning against Texas to close out a 6-2 win, touching off a wild celebration.

"It was crazy," Motte said. "Looking back on it now, it was ridiculous. I wasn't really thinking I got to get the last out of the World Series. It was like, 'What do I have to do? Make my pitch, let's go. Next pitch.'"