St Louis Cardinals closer Jason Motte will undergo Tommy John surgery next week, and will be out for the rest of the regular season. The 30-year old Motte tied Craig Kimbrel for the National League lead in saves last season with 42, and struck out 86 in 72 innings while posting a 2.75 ERA.
The bullpen shakeup for the Cardinals continued on Friday, with pitching prospect Carlos Martinez getting recalled from AA Springfield and reliever Mitchell Boggs (who was the Cardinals closer to start the season) getting demoted to AAA Memphis. Last month, Ian wrote about the Cardinals' relief options with Motte out of commission. But with Boggs getting demoted for Martinez, Mark Rzepczynski getting sent down for little known Seth Maness, things get a little more hazy for the Cardinals. They're now heavily relying on two elite prospects in the bullpen, with Martinez joining flamethrower Trevor Rosenthal in the pen. The closer's job has been seized by Edward Mujica, who is a perfect 7/7 in save opportunities this year.
But for as good as Mujica has been thusfar this year, striking out 13 and walking just one in 12 innings, he's been incredibly fortunate thusfar in 2013 with a .207 BABIP and an unreal 96.8% strand rate. While he's always possessed elite control, Mujica's strikeout rate is on another level right now, and the 15.3% whiff rate that the 28-year old has managed this year is also a career-best.
The NL Central has been more plucky than anyone imagined this season, with the Cardinals on top of the division but ahead of the fourth place Brewers by just 3.5 games. But despite that, the Cardinals have lost just one series within the division all season (dropping two out of three at home to the Pirates last weekend), and they're still holding strong despite everything that has gone wrong for them so far this year.