Most players would feel a sense of disappointment after struggling at a level for the first time. John Gast has chosen to look on the positive side and learn from that.
The Cardinals' No. 8 prospect allowed a run on two hits and struck out four over seven innings as Memphis held on to defeat Nashville, 2-1, on Monday.
Gast faced two over the minimum, allowing a solo homer to Sean Halton in the second inning. Following a Logan Schaffer two-out single in the third inning, Gast retired the final 13 batters he faced and needed only 78 pitches to complete his day of work in the final start of the season.
"I just wanted to throw strikes," Gast said. "I was coming off a couple starts after I skipped one, and I was having trouble just throwing strikes. That's the main goal -- not to walk anyone and get the ball put in play. I was just trying to put the ball in the zone and I'm not too worried about the strikeouts. I was just trying to get them swinging and play a quicker game."
On display was Gast's newest pitch, a four-seam fastball. The Florida State University product worked it into his repertoire last season and has continued to refine it throughout the year.
"Last year it was kind of the first year I was throwing one," Gast said. "I was trying to get it over there to a righty. This year, it was a lot more consistent and a lot more comfortable."
A sixth-round pick in 2010, Gast has climbed quickly through the Cardinals system, moving up to the Pacific Coast League on May 19. He's struggled in the hitter-friendly league, going 9-5 with a 5.10 ERA. August was a particularly tough month for the 23-year-old left-hander, as he was winless in five starts while yielding 19 earned runs in 20 2/3 innings for the Redbirds. Putting together a strong start in the final game of the season therefore held some importance to Gast.
"It was really important to me because recently I kind of had a little arm inflammation and had two bad [starts]," he said. "It was good to end the year not on that note and on a stronger note."
Despite having the toughest season of his three-year career, Gast is OK with that because of what he's taken away from it.
"It was just a good experience to play against hitters that weren't in their first or second year in pro ball," the Florida native said. "Playing against older guys, you learn a lot about their approach and how you need to pitch. It was good to go through a little struggle in Triple-A. No one wants to pitch bad, but it's always good if you can learn from it."
On the positive side, Gast was second in the Cardinals organization with 13 wins and has compiled a 4.09 ERA in 29 starts between Double-A Springfield and Memphis.
Jorge Rondon struck out three of the four batters he faced in relief of Gast, and Barret Browning retired the final two batters of the game to earn his first Triple-A save.
Gast contributed with the bat as well, singling and scoring the Redbirds' first run on Ryan Jackson's RBI groundout in the seventh inning. Steven Hill followed with a run-scoring single to give Memphis the lead.
Hiram Burgos struck out six and allowed five hits over six scoreless innings but did not figure into the decision for the Sounds. The 25-year-old completes the season with a 1.95 ERA across three levels. It's likely he'll finish the season with the third best ERA -- behind Reds prospect Tony Cingrani and Marlins prospect Jose Fernandez -- among full-season pitchers in the Minors.