The Cardinals starting rotation has already taken a hit this Spring Training with the Carlos Martinez injury. Originally, he, along with Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright were set to make up the Redbirds starting staff. However, Martinez will now start the season on the DL, leaving his spot up for grabs.
St. Louis has plenty of young pitchers in their organization that they could throw into the fire to start the year. A few of them have some experience as well, but one guy seems to be the favorite to get the nod at this point.
John Gant seems to be the frontrunner to nab the open rotation slot. Not only does he have the most big league games pitched of the five candidates, he is also out of minor league options. The other four pitchers can all still be sent Triple A without having to clear waivers, Gant cannot.
It’s not just the sheer number of innings pitched in the MLB that give John the edge either. He provided the Cards with quality starting depth when they needed it in 2018. Over 19 starts, Gant posted a 3.61 ERA and held opponents to a .219 batting average. If you include his relief appearances, he was even better, posting a 3.47 ERA in 114 total innings.
2019 Spring Training
So far this spring, Gant has pitched in three games, starting two of them. His only relief appearance thus far came back on February 24 agains the Nationals. That afternoon he threw two scoreless innings, walking two and striking out one.
His last two outings, his two starts, have come against two of the toughest lineups in the game. Sure, it’s just Spring Training, but it’s still a good test for a young pitcher.
The first of the two came on March 1 against Houston. He handled that task well, only surrendering one run, despite giving up four hits, over three innings. Gant did strike out one batter that afternoon and did not allow a walk.
John’s next test came last Wednesday against the potent Yankees lineup. Even though he did collect his first win, the start didn’t go as planned. After a smooth first inning, Gant threw 30 of his 67 pitches in the second. He tossed up a double and a walk before throwing Austin Romine a “meatball,” as he put it, that was sent over the fence for a three-run homer. Those were the only runs he gave up though. He fought his way out of that inning and through the third before his afternoon was over.
Overall this spring Gant is 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in those eight innings. He’s shown some good things on the mound though. Mike Shildt has liked what he’s seen out of John’s curveball, saying, “It’s a good pitch for him. It’s a pitch he’s going to need to land. It’s just a matter of throwing it for a more consistent strike, which he’s capable of doing.”
Additionally, Gant has been able to work on his cutter and even said after his last start that he felt good throwing it. He also said, “It’s kind of a work-in-progress for me and it’s starting to feel more and more comfortable with each outing. [Last year], I was going out every fifth day trying to get outs, not trying to work on things. Now is the perfect time to get that going.”
If he does continue to improve those two pitches and can avoid injury during the remainder of Spring Training, he will be in a great spot to begin the year in the starting rotation.
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