(KSDK Sports) -- Injured Cardinals hurlers Jaime Garcia and Jason Motte each made steps in the right direction in an extended spring training game on Thursday.
Garcia, who was shut down during Spring Training after experiencing shoulder discomfort, threw 50 pitches to live hitters. His fastball averaged 90mph while topping out at 92mph, and showed good movement on his cut-fastball. Garcia struggled to find placement on his curveball, planting a few in the dirt, but said that he felt good before and after the session. A member of the Cardinals medical staff told me that Garcia will likely have two to three more similar outings in extended spring training before embarking on a minor-league rehab assignment. It is feasible to target a return date of around mid-June for a return to the big club.
Motte, recovering from Tommy John surgery a year ago, hit 94mph for the first time in his appearance yesterday with an average of 92mph on his fastball. The same medical staffer said that his session was "hit-or-miss" and that he "still has some work to do." He did note, however, that the medical team has few concerns with Motte and that the 100mph gas that he was throwing before surgery will return. The team had originally targeted mid-May as a return date for Motte but it is possible that he may need another two weeks or so beyond that at this point.
A right-handed reliever beyond closer Trevor Rosenthal is a big need for the Cardinals right now, especially with the struggles of Seth Maness and Carlos Martinez likely transitioning to the rotation at some point this season. While Garcia's role is cloudy at this point, there's no question that Motte could make an immediate impact in St. Louis, if healthy.
Stephen Nations is an aspiring sports and Cardinals columnist. He will be contributing his commentary to KSDK.com during the 2014 season. You can follow him on twitter at @Nayshface.