ST. LOUIS -- Jason Motte had until the middle of next week to prove to the Cardinals that he was making enough progress to warrant delaying a decision about Tommy John surgery. By picking up a baseball and playing catch Saturday morning, he has.
The session of catch was Motte's first since he was shut down after pitching on March 21. He threw 35 to 40 times from a distance that he approximated to be 30 to 40 feet. He said afterward that he did not feel anything abnormal, an encouraging sign for a pitcher who, for much of the last month, felt tightness in his right elbow.
"It was getting the throwing motion down," Motte said, "seeing how a little bit of pressure, a little bit of tension on that elbow would feel."
Motte, who received the diagnosis of a ligament tear April 11, preceded Saturday's game of catch by throwing balls into a net earlier this week. While the team was on the road for 10 days, Motte remained in St. Louis to work through a physical therapy program.
The Cardinals had initially deemed May 1 the date at which they would determine whether Motte would need to have season-ending surgery. Because of the progress Motte has made, general manager John Mozeliak said the club was comfortable pushing that deadline back.
"We had put that date out there because we were hopeful that we would know something by then," Mozeliak said. "But the fact that he is moving forward, it may push that day a little further. Had he not been able to progress to this level, then I think we know the answer."
The challenge, of course, is determining how long to stall. If the Cardinals give Motte more time for rehab and surgery is still eventually needed, that pushes back the timeframe for Motte's return in 2014. On the other hand, the Cardinals don't want to push Motte into surgery until they ensure it is absolutely necessary.
"If we thought surgery was the only option, we would have already went on and had it and stopped wasting time," Motte said. "We think there are steps we can take and rehab stuff we can do to make it better. We're doing that and trying to see what we can do to take steps forward. But at the end of the day, I'm doing everything I can, and it's up to this [elbow] to respond well or not to respond."
Motte said the way his arm responds over the next 48 hours would be a good gauge for whether the ligament was beginning to heal. If he recovers well, Motte will then slowly increase the exertion in his throwing program. If there is any setback going forward, the Cardinals are expected to recommend the season-ending procedure.
In the meantime, the organization is content to wait.
"Obviously, we're not going backwards," Mozeliak said. "There is a sense of hope, but it's still, I think, too early to start weighing in on whether there's a likelihood of him coming back."
M. Carpenter leaves game with tightness
ST. LOUIS -- Matt Carpenter was replaced by a pinch-hitter for precautionary reasons in the ninth Saturday against the Pirates, two innings after he felt some left-side tightness while swinging at the second pitch he saw from reliever Tony Watson.
In speaking after the Cardinals' 5-3 loss, Carpenter minimized the severity of the injury. But manager Mike Matheny had no interest in risking it becoming any worse by having Carpenter hit that final time. Last season, Carpenter missed 27 games with a right oblique strain.
"Obviously, I've had some history and got hurt with it last year," said Carpenter, the team's leadoff hitter for the third straight game. "I think that was the main thing. They knew that I've had that injury before and they wanted to make sure it wasn't too serious. It was more a precautionary move more than anything else. I went into the training room, checked it out and I think we're going to be fine."
Carpenter swung at three other pitches in that seventh-inning at-bat before popping out. He played two more innings on defense as well. His side remained tight throughout, he said.
Matheny sent Carpenter into the on-deck circle in the ninth before pulling him just before his name was announced.
"He was determined to go back out there, but a [cold, rainy] day like today is usually a recipe for things getting real bad," Matheny said. "We had to get him out."
Jermaine Curtis, who was called up from Triple-A on Friday, hit in Carpenter's place. He struck out to end an eight-pitch at-bat.
The Cardinals have already lost Matt Adams to an oblique injury this week. Adams was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Monday, after straining his right oblique while taking a batting practice swing.
Pirates' Sanchez suspended for hitting Craig
ST. LOUIS -- A day after Jonathan Sanchez was ejected 17 pitches into his start against the Cardinals, Major League Baseball handed him a six-game suspension for what was deemed an intentional attempt to hit Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig.
Sanchez, who was also fined by MLB, appealed the suspension, allowing him to remain available out of the bullpen for the rest of this series.
Umpire Tim Timmons tossed Sanchez when the lefty hit Craig just under the helmet after the Cardinals opened the first inning with two homers and a single. Timmons told a pool reporter after the game that he believed Sanchez threw at Craig intentionally.
He did not sense similar intent from Lance Lynn, who later in the evening twice hit Pirates outfielder Starling Marte. Though Timmons had issued a warning to the Cardinals' bench after the first-inning plunking, it was the umpire's discretion as to whether Lynn was throwing at Marte or simply pitching inside.
"I think we've all seen those instances where they throw that warning out ... and somebody glances somebody and now they feel obligated to throw them out when it's obvious they weren't trying to hit anybody," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said on Saturday. "It puts a lot more judgment on the umpires, but hopefully they use their good judgment and can try to follow what intent is. That becomes kind of cloudy."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle talked with Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president for baseball operations, on Saturday to share his perspective on Friday's situation. Hurdle had been tossed from Friday's game, too, after arguing with Timmons about Sanchez's ejection.
"At the end of the day, the only person who knows what happened is Jonathan," Hurdle said. "I know this about Jonathan -- he knows he has to pitch well to keep his spot, and anything that takes away from that isn't productive."
Freese gets day off to clear his head
ST. LOUIS -- Manager Mike Matheny chose to keep David Freese out of the lineup on Saturday to give the third baseman a chance to mentally refresh after a frustrating day at the plate in Friday's series opener.
With a runner on third in the first inning on Friday, Freese lined out to the shortstop to end the run-scoring opportunity. Matheny said he then sensed that Freese tried to do too much during his next three at-bats, none of which resulted in a ball leaving the infield. Freese has only four hits in his last 28 at-bats, and he has two extra-base hits on the season -- both doubles.
"Right now, he's just pressing," Matheny said. "Everybody goes through this. It's not a panic situation. Today is an opportunity to get some work and try and get your mind right."
With lefty Jeff Locke starting for Pittsburgh on Sunday, Freese is expected to return to the lineup. Taking Freese's place at third on Saturday was Matt Carpenter. That opened up a spot for Daniel Descalso to start at second.
• Carpenter, who singled and scored in the first inning on Saturday, has now scored a run in all 13 games in which he has gotten a hit. Carpenter entered the day tied with Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez for the National League lead in runs scored with 20.
• By stranding another pair of runners on Friday, lefty Randy Choate has now allowed only two of 15 inherited runners to score. No pitcher in baseball has inherited more baserunners this year than Choate, who signed with the club last offseason.
• The Cardinals will not have to worry about facing Pirates second baseman Neil Walker the rest of this series, as Walker had to receive six stitches on his right index finger knuckle after Pete Kozma's cleat came down on his hand in the eighth inning on Friday. The injury occurred when Walker was sliding into second base trying to break up a double play.
"When he went up, he didn't fall down; he tried to catch himself with his cleat," Walker said of Kozma. "My right hand got on the ground and he got me on my knuckle. I got six stitches in my knuckle. No tendons or issues like that. I'm going to have to give it a few days of no moving it."
• Prospects Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong each had two hits in Triple-A Memphis' loss on Friday. The 2-1 loss to Nashville ended on a walk-off balk by Memphis reliever Jorge Rondon.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.