Newcomer John Gant kept the St. Louis Cardinals’ starting pitching on a roll Saturday.
Gant, part of the Dec. 1 trade that sent left-hander Jaime Garcia to the Atlanta Braves, threw three perfect innings and struck out three in a 2-2, 10-inning tie against the visiting Braves.
Gant, a right-hander competing for a spot on the staff, struck out three. In his previous start Monday, Gant threw two scoreless innings and struck out one against the New York Mets.
“I felt real good. My body feels good, and the ball feels good coming out of my hand,” Gant said. “A lot of familiar face (on the Braves). It’s fun to compete against your friends, guys that you’ve played with before.”
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Gant needed just 31 pitches to record three outs. He threw 22 strikes.
“There wasn’t anything specific that I was working on over anything else,” Gant said. “Just trying to throw strikes and get them to put balls in play. I wouldn’t say everything was working perfect, but it ended up working out.
“You should probably have confidence all the time, no matter what. It’s nice to have a good outing, but I think you have to have a short-term memory if things are going good or bad. (Saturday) is officially in the past now, so I’m looking forward to (Sunday).”
In the last two games, Cardinals starters have allowed one run on one hit in seven innings. Mike Leake worked four innings and permitted only a Bryce Harper home run Friday.
Gant reached the major leagues for the first time in his career last season, going 1-4 with a 4.86 ERA in 20 games and seven starts with Atlanta. He walked 21 and struck out 49 in 50 innings, surrendering 54 hits.
Gant doesn’t have a defined role. Publicly, the Cardinals have said they’re holding an audition for the fifth-starter spot, with Michael Wacha holding the lead over Trevor Rosenthal.
If Gant, 24, is not in that competition, he is vying for a spot as a long man in the bullpen. The Savannah, Ga., native insists he doesn’t spend much time thinking about such things.
“I think that’s something that’s out of my control, so I don’t really think about that. I just want to go get outs when I’m called upon,” he said. “I guess I would prefer to start, but I just like to pitch. I’ll throw wherever I’m needed.”
Reliever Brett Cecil threw a scoreless fifth against the Braves as he continues to work toward Opening Day. The left-hander signed a four-year, $30.5-million deal in November.
“I’m starting to repeat my delivery pretty well, and my stuff is there,” Cecil said, adding that he’s developing camaraderie with his new teammates.
“That’s probably the main thing — getting to know your teammates,” he said. “Everything else is pretty similar. You get here early, work out, stretch, throw ... The only new thing besides teammates was I had a bat and a helmet waiting in my locker, and I had bunting stations and pitchers’ offense (work).”
Cecil, 30, spent his first eight seasons with Toronto in the American League.
Cecil called his new teammates “great guys” and said they’re “easy to get along with.”
“The thing I like most is everybody kind of either chats with everybody or anybody can get on somebody, messing around,” Cecil said. “There’s no cliques in the clubhouse. I feel like it all starts with ‘Waino’ (Adam Wainwright), just seeing him go around the clubhouse. One day he’ll eat lunch with us (pitchers), one day he’ll eat lunch with the young guys.
“He seems to make a point to get around and get to know everybody that’s in camp, not just big-league pitchers or big-league hitters. The guys that are young prospects and get invited to camp, he makes sure he’s sociable with them. It’s good to see. It’s new to me, and I like it.”
Manager Mike Matheny came to camp Saturday but began feeling sick and went home before the game against Atlanta. Matheny was scheduled to hold his daily conference with reporters at 9:30 a.m. Thirty minutes later, the team announced he had left.
Longtime Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon also was not in camp because of an illness.