Recently demoted to High-A Palm Beach, as if he had never left, Cardinals farmhand Jason Motte sat in the visitors’ clubhouse at the Phillies’ complex in Clearwater, Fla., and readied for batting practice. It was early May 2006 and while hitting had become an anchor, marooning him in the low minors, there was always the chance that today his average, limp at .133, stirred.

Before he could leave for the field, a coach beckoned him into the manager’s office. For a fleeting moment, the starting catcher saw the gathering of coaches and expected to hear about his return to Class AA. One look at their faces vaporized that hope. The Cardinals minor-league coordinator, Mark Riggins, explained how they had another destination for him in mind.

They were sending him to the mound.

Motte’s first career was over.

He left the office to pack his useless gear with one echoing thought.

“I had never pitched before,” he recalled this past week. “Can I have a grace period?”