CHC@STL: Molina takes exception to a high pitch

ST. LOUIS -- A day after the Cardinals expressed frustration with multiple high-and-inside pitches thrown to Yadier Molina, Cubs manager Rick Renteria offered his side of the story when asked about possible intent and Molina's reaction.

"There was nothing there," Renteria told Chicago reporters Friday. "Both teams should react exactly the way they reacted. That's baseball. You're competing with two division rivals. Was there any intent to try to hit him? Absolutely not. Are the reactions normal? Sure. It's one of your key players.

"You see a pitch that seemingly looks like it's up and in. If you go back to the video, it wasn't as close as you might think. When a pitch is elevated to the mind's eye, it seems like it's very close. I think everybody reacted the way they should when two teams are competing against each other. There's nothing wrong with the way they showed their emotion."

After being brushed back by an eighth-inning pitch from Neil Ramirez on Thursday, Molina turned to Chicago's dugout and began to exchange words with Renteria.

"We told him, 'Hey, why would we want to hit you?'" Renteria said. "There's no purpose -- it would serve nothing at that point. That's all it was."

It all led home-plate umpire Will Little to issue a warning to both dugouts. Molina has not commented on the incident, though Cardinals manager Mike Matheny defended Molina's reaction after his team's 5-3 win on Thursday.

"You get one mistake that sails and flies up by your head, you're not happy about it," Matheny said. "But when you see a number of them happen that way, you start to take it pretty personal, and I don't blame him. We're not trying to pitch anybody up and in like that, and then you start talking about around the head. Nobody else should, either. Guys need to stand up for themselves and we need to stand up for them."

The Cubs and Cardinals next play each other July 25-27 at Wrigley Field.

After two-inning outing, Motte close to activation

NLCS Gm3: Motte pitches two frames for the save

ST. LOUIS -- Jason Motte returned to St. Louis on Friday to participate in a local charity event. He just might hang around this time, too.

The Cardinals will monitor Motte through Saturday and then make a decision as to whether he needs to return to Triple-A Memphis to continue a rehab assignment or if he is ready to come off the disabled list and rejoin the big league bullpen. Because Motte threw two innings Thursday, he would not be activated from the DL until, at the earliest, Sunday.

"We'll see these next couple of days what they have in store for me as far as the way I feel and what the plan is," Motte said, after playing catch in the outfield Friday. "Each step that we've taken, each test that we've had, I've been able to wake up the next day and go throw and do my normal stuff. … We're slowly moving forward and seeing what these next few days hold."

The two-inning test Thursday was a first for Motte, who had not made a multiple-inning appearance since Game 3 of the 2012 National League Championship Series. Seven months later, Motte underwent Tommy John surgery, which cost him the 2013 season and the first part of this year.

Motte threw 31 pitches (18 strikes) in his appearance Thursday. He allowed a leadoff single before retiring six straight. He struck out two and said his fastball velocity was sitting at 94-96 mph.

"I felt good," Motte said. "I was able to go out there and throw my fastball when I wanted to. I was able to elevate it when I wanted to. I was able to throw my cutter in on guys when I wanted to. I was happy with the way it went yesterday."

Motte's fastball velocity has not returned to pre-surgery highs, though Motte calls that a non-concern.

"It would be great to be at 98, 99 [mph], but I learned a long time ago that it really doesn't matter how hard you throw," he said. "It's where you throw it and what you throw and how you execute your pitches."

Motte has time remaining in a 30-day rehab assignment to make additional appearances in the Minors, should the Cardinals choose to have him do so. He has had six outings -- four in Double-A, two in Triple-A -- since beginning the rehab stint. Combined, Motte has pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings with five strikeouts.

"He said he continues to kind of check off the boxes set for him," manager Mike Matheny said. "That's really what you have to do. A couple innings is an important step to take and he passed that, and it just depends on how he feels today."

Adams could use bunts to battle infield shifts

CHC@STL: Adams plates a run with infield single

ST. LOUIS -- A day after the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo exploited the defensive shift by twice bunting down the third-base line for a base hit, left-handed hitting Matt Adams was among four participants in the Cardinals' early afternoon bunting session led by assistant hitting coach David Bell.

What Rizzo did to combat the shift -- and ultimately force the Cardinals out of it -- is something that the Cardinals would also like Adams to try in an effort to take advantage of teams shifting him to the right side of the field.

"It's absolutely there for you," manager Mike Matheny said. "I know that the Cubs were very happy to [have Rizzo] do it, especially on the second time when it cost us a run with a two-run homer instead of [what would have been] a solo shot by [Starlin] Castro. Starting the game 2-for-2, no matter how you get it, is a beautiful thing. It's something [Adams] needs to be able to do or pull off whenever he can."

Rizzo's first bunt single came with two out in the first inning and stirred a brief rally. His second time up, he reached just before Castro went deep.

"I almost made them pay twice for it," Rizzo said. "[Michael] Wacha's a great pitcher and you get him in the stretch and try to maybe throw him off a little bit. If teams are going to give me that, I'll take it all the time."

Adams bunted for a base hit twice during Spring Training but has yet to execute the play against the shift this season.

Worth noting

• Right-hander David Aardsma, a late spring signee who has spent the season with Triple-A Memphis, has told the Cardinals he will remain with the organization despite having an opportunity to opt out of his contract and become a free agent on May 15. Aardsma has allowed three earned runs on 11 hits in 17 innings with Memphis but has been passed over for a big league promotion so far.

• Jordan Swagerty, a right-handed pitching prospect in the organization, returned to St. Louis this week to have an elbow clean-up surgery, general manager John Mozeliak said. It has not yet been determined how long the recovery period will be. Swagerty has had multiple surgeries on his right elbow since March 2012 and had to halt his participation in Major League Spring Training this past February due to additional inflammation in that elbow.

• Getting quality at-bats from their pitchers was a priority for the Cardinals entering this season, and the extra work both during and since Spring Training has paid some early dividends. The starters entered Friday hitting .177 (the second-highest average in the National League) with seven RBIs this year. In 2013, the group combined to hit .126 with 19 RBIs in 162 games.

"Without question," manager Mike Matheny said, when asked if the quality of at-bats from pitchers had improved this year. "The long at-bats, even though they might end up in a strikeout, it's costing [the opposing pitcher] six pitches instead of three. I think they've got a real nice approach and that's been a conscious effort. "

• Randal Grichuk homered twice and Oscar Taveras once in Memphis' 10-6 loss on Thursday. The multihomer game was the second of Grichuk's career; he has seven homers this season. Taveras leads Memphis with 31 RBIs.

• Left-hander Marco Gonzales, the No. 19 overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, will make his Double-A debut in Springfield's game against Arkansas on Saturday. Gonzales went 2-2 with a 1.43 ERA and struck out 32 in six starts for Class A Advanced Palm Beach prior to the promotion.