Facing a 'bullies' lineup, Gant holds his own

Right-hander looking to win job in Cardinals' rotation

March 7th, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. -- When Cardinals right-hander saw the Yankees lineup he would have to face at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday, he knew it would be a good test.

"They sent the bullies out today," Gant said. "That lineup made it into the postseason last year. They've got a bunch of studs over there, so it's nice to get in there and compete."

Gant battled out of a couple of jams and gave up three runs on four hits in three innings in St. Louis' 9-5 win.

Gant threw 67 pitches, with nearly half of them coming in a laborious second inning that saw Gant give up a double to and walk before yielding a three-run home run to on a fastball that Gant said was a "meatball."

"Just bad execution, missing pitches I wanted to make and getting in those deeper counts," Gant said. "I think I threw over 30 in that second inning, and that's too many."

Gant, however, recovered to get the final five outs of his start without any further damage.

Manager Mike Shildt credited Gant for his ability to compete despite not having his best stuff on a cool, breezy afternoon.

"He found a way to get through it," Shildt said. "He had trouble getting in a rhythm, had trouble getting his bread-and-butter going with his changeup. He threw some good ones but had trouble repeating it. He made some pitches when he had to and he competed well, which he always does."

Gant proved to be a battler for the Cardinals last year when he went 7-6 with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.298 WHIP in 26 games, including 19 starts -- both career highs. He's competing for an open spot in the rotation this year and clearly is trying to focus on adding to his repertoire as well as keeping counts in his favor by cutting down on the 57 walks he issued last season.

"As long as I'm throwing strikes with everything, I'll get those swings," Gant said. "Last year, the walks absolutely killed me pitch count-wise. Probably the biggest goal for me this year is no free bases."

Gant threw a lot of cutters Wednesday, a pitch that he is using much of this spring to work on and develop. It's a pitch he started trying to develop last year but didn't have the time to improve.

"I felt good with my cutter today," Gant 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."

Shildt believes Gant's curveball, another pitch that was on display heavily Wednesday, can become very effective in time.

"It's a good pitch for him," Shildt said. "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."