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St. Louis Cardinals bullpen has more question marks than answers

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David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Motte returns, then Kevin Siegrist's locker is empty. That's the way it goes. One in; one out. The human body isn't designed to sling overhand a small orb at speeds approaching 100 mph.

Siegrist's diagnosis is that all too familiar disabled-list lingo that causes one's heart to sink. A "strain" is a tear. It's a question of how severe. Adam Wainwright pitched with a UCL tear for years before it necessitated replacement. On the other hand, there's Motte, whose forearm strain turned into Tommy John surgery after several weeks and took a year of his career.

Motte has returned, but he isn't yet his old self. And it might very well be unrealistic to expect him to be that high-90s flamethrower again. Last night, manager Mike Matheny deployed the former closer in a low pressure assignment of the non-save variety. The manic mannerisms were all there, thank goodness, but the miles per hour just weren't. When you take joy and excitement from a pitcher reaching 95 with a straight heater when he used to zing the ball plateward on average at over 98 mph, you realize that you're watching a recreation as much as a rebirth.

The point was jarringly driven home when Ryan Ludwick greeted Motte rudely, depositing a 93-mph fourseamer into the bleachers for a homer. The Reds didn't let up, hitting Motte into a save situation that brought closer Trevor Rosenthal in to put out the fire. It doesn't appear that Motte will be able to pitch the way that Motte used to pitch—at least in the near term. Motte is not a relief answer at present. He's a question mark.

Siegrist's injury replaces one of the few answers in Matheny's relief corps with another question mark: organizational soldier Sam Freeman. The southpaw has the repertoire for success against lefthanded and righthanded batters alike, but can he show the consistent control needed to become a reliable bullpen option? Freeman's numbers for Triple-A Memphis are heartening in this regard. He's posted one of the lowest walk rates of his career over 20 1/3 innings against minor-leaguers this season. Will he be able to parlay his Triple-A performance into MLB success?

The Cardinals' 2014 fortunes are once again reminding us that bullpenning is a brutal business with more question marks than answers.