Cardinals closer Jason Motte isn’t on the operating table _ yet. But unless the righthander shows some significant healing by May 1 from what an MRI exam performed Tuesday showed to be a low-grade tear in his ligament, he will have Tommy John surgery, general manager John Mozeliak said tonight.

Initially, Motte had been resting for nearly the last three weeks from a flexor tendon strain. Mozeliak said that no longer is an issue but the ligament is. Surgery would put Motte, just signed to a two-year contract in the off-season, out for the season.

Mentioning the May 1 deadline when Motte will be re-evaluated, Mozeliak said, “If he’s not able to throw at that point, surgery certainly is an option. We’ll take the next three weeks and see how things progress. If he’s able to improve and start a throwing program, he’ll move forward with that. If not, he’ll undergo surgery.”

Motte apparently suffered the injury in throwing a 97 mile an hour fastball, standard issue for him, in a game toward the end of spring training.

Mozeliak conceded that today’s MRI brought news that was not necessarily surprising, but disappointing.

“Obviously, things like this are never great to hear,” he said. “We can write the final chapter on this on around May 1 but it’s something that’s not great news. It wasn’t great news when we first learned about it.”

The May 1 deadline is important for not only this season, but the next one, said Mozeliak.