Originally written February 16, 2012 on Fox Sports Midwest:
Picimg_mlb_feb_21_abfc
ST. LOUIS - New Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has no problem doing what former skipper Tony La Russa refrained from. Yes, Jason Motte is indeed the closer. "Jason has certainly positioned himself as we head into Spring Training as the closer," Matheny said. Tell that to Motte and he'll joke back with, "Watch your mouth." The mini-controversy was a source of jokes for media members and fans down the stretch last year as Motte continued to close out games and La Russa continued to refuse from calling him the closer. But whether or not La Russa wanted to call Motte the closer didn't matter. The stats proved otherwise. Motte saved nine games on the year, eight of which came in September as he solidified his spot heading into the playoffs. Motte had five saves in the playoffs and was on the mound for the final out of both the National League Championship Series and World Series. "It didn't matter to me what they called me," Motte said. "I just wanted to go out there and if I was pitching in the seventh, eighth, ninth, 12th, whatever - I just wanted to go out there and give my team a chance a win. "It doesn't matter what they call you, it's what you do out there on the field. They can call you whatever you want, but it's all about your performance on the field. I don't look at it any differently." After a rough rookie year in which he posted a 4.76 ERA in 69 games in 2009, Motte has turned into a dominant reliever the past two seasons. He posted a 2.24 ERA in 2010 and a 2.25 ERA last year. Motte faced 268 batters last season and allowed just two home runs. He had 63 strikeouts and allowed 49 hits in 68 innings, showing the dominant stuff that typical closers possess. Unlike former closer Ryan Franklin who relied on control and rarely got strikeouts, Motte's upper-90's fastball proved to be a dangerous weapon in the ninth inning. The 29-year-old Motte was almost unhittable in the playoffs, giving up just five hits to 43 batters in 12 13 innings. He allowed runs in just two of his 12 appearances and had a 2.19 ERA. But despite the success in the biggest of situations last fall, Motte plans on trying to keep a level head as Spring Training opens this weekend. "I don't look at it any different," Motte said. "I still have to go in there and get myself ready for spring and do what I need to do to get my arm and my body ready. I'm not looking at it any differently. "I'm trying to go out there and prove that I belong on the team just like I did my first spring in 2008 and 2009 and 2010 and last year. I'm going to prove that I belong and in this game." Matheny's willingness and openness to confirm Motte's stance as the closer to start the spring was a welcomed change for media and fans alike. Players likely appreciated it too. After a year in which La Russa hoped to alleviate pressure by refusing to name a closer, Motte appears ready to embrace his now official role. "I don't think Tony found it very funny," Motte said. "You guys were probably the only one that thought it was a joke. I didn't care. It didn't matter to me. " The title may not matter. But having Motte closing out games to start the year could pay big dividends for Matheny and the Cardinals this season.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

What to watch in the NL Wild Card game

Sammy Watkins calls out EJ Manuel

Larry Donnell benches himself in fantasy, loses because of it

Josh Gordon says NFL’s drug policy is harrassment

Steve Smith: Ron Rivera hid in his office after cutting me

Rondo hoping for an opening night return from broken hand

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Jon Gruden on Raiders job: 'I'm not thinking about coaching'

Tom Brady defends not congratulating Garoppolo on TD

Ohio State student who ran on field loses full scholarship

Report: Carson Palmer's nerve injury 'still lingering'

Adam Dunn to retire after 14-year MLB career

Ryan Lochte: Phelps made dumb decision, will learn from it

WATCH: Mayweather shocked someone doesn’t know who he is

Who is the new face of MLB?

NHL 15 predicts the LA Kings win the Cup again

J.J. Watt buys his mom a new car for her birthday

Ranking the NFL coaches already sitting on the hot seat

WATCH: Smith tells Panthers to go home and mow his lawn

The best games on the NFL slate in Week 5

Aaron Rodgers says smoking gesture a tribute to Jay Cutler

What will the A’s look like in 2015?

Major League Baseball's 2014 All-Disappointment Team

Jeter introduces 'The Players Tribune,' 'The Voice of the Game'

Grading each NFL's team's play at quarter-season mark

Cardinals News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

What to watch in the NL Wild Card game

Sammy Watkins calls out EJ Manuel

Donnell benches himself in fantasy and loses

Gordon: Drug policy is harrassment

Who is the new face of baseball?

Steve Smith blasts Panthers coach, GM

What will the A’s look like in 2015?

All-Disappointment Team in MLB

Ryan Lochte: Phelps made dumb decision

WATCH: Brett Favre in new commercial

Brady snubs rookie after TD pass

FCC: Washington nickname 'inappropriate today'

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.