Contrary to the stubborn stance he took throughout October, former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa did not retire without first acknowledging the role, by name, Jason Motte played in the championship run.

Once the righthander had wiggled free of the celebration that followed the final out of World Series Game 7, he found La Russa near the dugout.

"You're my closer," the manager announced.

"You're only saying that because we don't have any more games," Motte replied.

"You're smarter than you look," La Russa said as he winked.

While La Russa refused to give Motte the title, he became eager to give the righty the responsibility. Motte had a save in five of the Cardinals' first seven victories in the postseason and pitched a perfect ninth in Game 7 to clinch the championship. Motte left last season as he arrives at this spring training — no longer experimenting to find the reliever he might be, but a pitcher in full. New manager Mike Matheny has a word to describe what Motte has become.

He calls him closer.