Last season, in two stints with the Cardinals, Perez had seven saves in 41 games. But this spring right-hander Jason Motte, a hard-throwing former catcher who was impressive late last season when called up, seems to have forged ahead.
"Anyone who's been following what's been going on would notice that among those receiving consideration (to close), Motte has been the most impressive," Duncan said. "There's a ways to go in camp. But that's where it stands for me."
In his first six Grapefruit League appearances this spring, Motte allowed one earned run in six innings while striking out 10 without a walk.
Perez was trying to elevate his arm angle this spring, whereby he could better throw his fastball and slider from the same slot, unlike last season when some perceived he was throwing the two pitches from different slots.
Perez allowed one hit and one earned run in his first five outings but then had an unimpressive outing before being shut down.
NOTES AND QUOTES
--CF Rick Ankiel, who had been homerless for the spring, hit home runs in back-to-back games on March 19-20 against the defending league champions, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.
--RF Ryan Ludwick, whose spring average had dipped to .150 with a 2-for-22 funk, homered on March 19. After some extended work with hitting coach Hal McRae both in the batting cage and the video room, Ludwick, who had 37 homers last year, said, "I feel like I'm in a much better place now then I was 1 1/2 weeks ago."
--LHP Dennys Reyes, signed to a two-year, $4 million deal while he was with the Mexican team in the World Baseball Classic, was delayed in reporting to camp as he addressed what general manager John Mozeliak called a personal issue.
--2B Skip Schumaker pivoted two double plays in a pair of games as he gradually is becoming more comfortable at the position. He almost certainly will get the majority of the time at that position early in the season.
--Joe Mather may not be the regular third baseman, as was thought, while Troy Glaus recovers from shoulder surgery. Mather's spring batting average was .196 through March 20, and he was being moved around in the field, spending much of his time in the outfield.
BY THE NUMBERS: 8 -- Millions of dollars by which the Cardinals' payroll is expected to drop. Last year's opening payroll was more than $101 million, but this year's is projected closer to $93 million.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Other clubs are feeling the same thing. We're tightening our belts." -- Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr.