COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals have enjoyed a streak of 37 games before they had to go beyond their five-man rotation for a starter in 2013. That rotation has been, statistically speaking, the best in major league baseball to that point.
Jake Westbrook, who has been surprisingly dominant in the early part of the season, finds himself taking a seat on the disabled list thanks to a sore right elbow. Westbrook takes his 1.62 earned run average to the disabled list with him. He will reportedly throw a bullpen session this week and the team will put together a plan for his eventual return.
The team was left with a decision to make for the first time this season: who fills in when a starter goes down?
Meet John Gast.
The six-foot-one left hander from Florida may be a bit of a surprise choice to most Cardinal fans that anticipated Joe Kelly or Trevor Rosenthal to possibly slide into the rotation. Kelly was the favorite of many to grab the role, based primarily on his ability to successfully step into the role in 2012 when Jaime Garcia was injured. Rosenthal, who has found a home near the back of the bullpen with his blazing fastball and pinpoint command, was considered for a starting role during the spring but would be a shocking addition to the rotation at any point in 2013.
Gast, meanwhile, has continued to produce at a high level at Memphis, the Cardinals Triple-A affiliate. While Kelly might have been the easy choice, rewarding Gast for his current work seemed like a positive move that continues to show the youngsters that their hard work will be rewarded.
Through seven starts at Memphis in 2013, Gast has produced a 1.16 earned run average while striking out 35 and only walking 13. Posting a WHIP just over one (1.060) and pitching to contact while using a plus fastball, an above average curveball and a changeup that is billed as his "out pitch". His fastball is lively and comes with a lot of movement, causing many swing-and-miss strikeouts as well as causing hitters to roll over the pitch for easy ground ball outs. In addition to the fits he can cause hitters, he has one of the most prolific pick-off moves in the organization. His move is so outstanding that the team had him working with Garcia in the spring of 2011 to help improve the elder-statesman's own move.
Gast arrives without the pedigree of some of the other young prospects but seems content on making his own pedigree as he goes along.
On May 14th against the New York Mets, the fans will get to see if Gast's version of pedigree is something worth getting excited about.
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