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Gant sees velocity uptick in solid spring start

Right-hander throws two scoreless innings vs. Minnesota
Special to MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Right-hander John Gant went two scoreless innings in the Cardinals' 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Twins on Monday. He gave up one hit with no walks and a strikeout. It was Gant's third outing this spring and his first start.

"It felt good," he said. "[The defense] made some good plays behind me, outfielders catching balls that the wind was doing some crazy things with."

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Right-hander John Gant went two scoreless innings in the Cardinals' 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Twins on Monday. He gave up one hit with no walks and a strikeout. It was Gant's third outing this spring and his first start.

"It felt good," he said. "[The defense] made some good plays behind me, outfielders catching balls that the wind was doing some crazy things with."

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Gant, 24, was a 21st-round pick by the Mets in 2011. He was acquired in the December trade that sent Jaime Garcia to Atlanta. In 20 appearances -- seven starts -- with the Braves last season he was 1-4 with a 4.86 ERA. He got the start on Tuesday when Trevor Rosenthal was scratched.

Gant, who is competing with Miguel Socolovich, Jordan Schafer and Sam Tuivailala for the last spot in the bullpen, has added a couple of miles per hour to his fastball. An offseason tweak to his mechanics helped. At 6-foot-3, he wants to use his height to his advantage.

"I tweaked a few things mechanically to just maybe be a little smoother," Gant said. "I think maybe that's helping.

"Tried to stay back a little. I felt like last year I was drifting forward quite a bit and not really getting as much extension as I could."

On Monday he was hitting 93, 94 mph.

"I think I have a body capable of throwing 93, 94," he said. "[But] I don't go by velocity. I go by feel, and how it feels is good."

He also goes by the reaction he gets from hitters.

"Definitely," he said. "That's part of the game. You can really get a gauge on how things are going based on what kinds of swings hitters are taking and that kind of thing."

Manager Mike Matheny was pleased with what he saw.

"The swings that they were taking against him, where he was putting it, he seems to be placing it well," Matheny said. "He's got a little late life to it. Curveball looks good, too, and he's got a good changeup. But locating that hard heater -- he was down with it for a good part and then when he tried to elevate, he could. I thought he executed well. He did a nice job."

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Cardinals on Monday.

St. Louis Cardinals, John Gant