WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. • There are options that throw harder or have heavier sink. There are options that are young, more highly regarded, have better breaking balls, or throw lefthanded. There are options that have two, three or four things that John Gant doesn't.
And that's fitting.
Because it's what he doesn't have that gives him an edge none of the other candidates for the opening in the Cardinals' rotation can claim.
He's out of options.
Inside the tempest of potential created by Alex Reyes (starting next week?), Dakota Hudson (two scoreless), and Austin Gomber (check that slider), Gant is at the eye, calm and steady and just as strong with his grip on the opportunity. The stoic righthander will make his second Grapefruit League appearance of the spring with the Cardinals first night game on the schedule. Gant, 26, will pitch about three or four innings against Houston at the Ballpark of the Palm Beach's complex.
In his first game in the Grapefruit League, Gant threw two scoreless innings. He walks two and struck out one.
That's been a signature of his work in the majors. He'll get through quick innings, he'll stumble into walk issues, and then slip free with a groundball. In 26 games for the Cardinals this past season, Gant went 7-6 with a 3.47 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 114 innings. He also walked 47 batters. As a starter he was 5-6 with a 3.61 ERA in 97 1/3 innings. He walked 48 batters. As either a starter or a reliever, Gant's WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) were above average in the wrong direction, and yet he was able to keep his ERA+ better than 100, or above average in the right direction.
And that ability, which comes across as an even-keel,high-floor righthander, hints at how Gant could fit in the Cardinals pitching staff.
They cannot send him to Class AAA Memphis without risking him through waivers -- and he'd be taken -- so they must find a role for him on the big-league roster. If he's starter, that bumps the other candidates into roles in the bullpen or as the No. 6 starter in Triple-A Memphis. It is more likely that the No. 6 starter would be, in that case, Gomber or righthander Daniel Ponce de Leon. If Hudson edges Gant and the others for the rotation spot, then Gant could serve as the groundball-getter in the bullpen, a role Hudson had last season and one held for a long time by Seth Maness. If Gant is in the rotation, then Hudson could be Maness, with more horsepower.
Reyes is the wild card -- fitting in as a starter in the majors, managed as a reliever in the majors, or off to Class AAA Memphis for controlled starts until he's needed in the majors. Reyes in the rotation shifts Hudson to the high-leverage spots and could cast Gant as a long reliever.
Gant's versatility means his production will find a place.
His steadiness could give that place prominence.
Into the night game, Andrew Miller, Chasen Shreve, and Giovanny Gallegos will be three of the pitchers scheduled to follow Gant. Miller will be appearing in a game for the first time with the Cardinals. More on that outing in Saturday's Post-Dispatch and late Friday night here on StlToday.com.
Here's the lineup that will back Gant:
- Harrison Bader, CF
- Jose Martinez, RF
- Paul DeJong, SS
- Marcell Ozuna, DH
- Tyler O'Neill, LF
- Jedd Gyorko, 3B
- Kolten Wong, 2B
- Rangel Ravelo, 1B
- Joe Hudson, C
Check back at StlToday.com for game coverage from West Palm Beach and news as it unfolds.
Miller has rocky ride in Cardinals' debut
Lefthander Andrew Miller’s Cardinals debut was a rocky one Friday night as he allowed three runs without finishing the fifth inning in the Cardinals’ 4-4 exhibition tie with to the Houston Astros.
Lefthanded-batting Tony Kemp lined Miller’s first pitch of the fifth for a single to right. Miller threw a wild pitch, allowed another single to Myles Straw and walked Josh Reddick to put three men on for Carlos Correa.
Correa hit a long foul to left before Miller fanned him on a 94 mph fastball. Miller got A.J. Reed to fly to second baseman Kolten Wong in short right field. But Wong slipped after making the catch and pinch runner Ronnie Dawson scored from third base.
Miller nicked Tyler Reed with a pitch, again filling the bases, and was replaced by Chris Beck, having already thrown 21 pitches. Beck gave up a two-run single to Max Stassi to break a 2-2 tie.
Miller was a free-agent signing in the off-season coming from Cleveland in a two-year deal, plus an option.
Starter John Gant pitched three strong innings for the Cardinals, allowing just one run, which wouldn’t have scored if the Cardinals had been able to turn a double play. Gant’s final out, his only strikeout, was a high-fastball whiff of Correa with a runner at third and two outs in the third. Gant threw a spring high of 53 pitches.
Tyler O'Neill crushed a long home run, his second of the spring, to the left-center-field berm in the seventh. The homer was also O'Neill's second hit in 12 at-bats.
Scott Hurst, a minor league import for the game, tied the score with a long homer to right in the eighth.
Ironically, Hurst, the Cardinals' third-round choice out of California-Fullerton in the 2017 draft, in essence, was the Cardinals' first pick that year because the first- and second-round choices had gone to Houston in the infamous hacking scandal. Hurst hit .295 at Class A Peoria and .354 at Class A Palm Beach last year with four homers in 63 Class A games.