Improved Breaking Ball Helps Gast

ST. LOUIS — At each new level, lefthander John Gast has been able to use his devious pickoff move to take advantage of what opponents don't know about him.

At Triple-A Memphis, he learned hitters had an advantage for what they did know.

"If you have a weak point in your game," Gast said in an interview with The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "they'll exploit it."

For Gast, that weak point was the lack of a breaking ball. That changed when he overheard two Memphis teammates discussing how they held their breaking pitches. He moved the ball deeper into his hand and the result was a tighter, sharper pitch and something he could get hitters to chase.

"It was an ineffective pitch (for me)," Gast said of the slurve he had with him through the minors. "I had one that was loopy. There wasn't a real tight spin on it. I tried not to use it too heavily. I knew it was a part of my game that had to improve."

The result of the improved pitch has added to a repertoire that had already fueled his rise to the organization's lead in wins. The 2010 sixth-round pick out of Florida State was 12-5, 3.77 through 24 starts split between Double-A Springfield and Memphis.

With each pro start, he inched closer to the pitcher he was now. Now Gast throws what his pitching coach calls "sneak" velocity, regularly hitting 89-90 mph and touching 92 with movement.

"The main thing I've found at this level is you have to (make) improvements," Gast said. "How do you stay ahead? I've got to mold that pitch a little bit more."


• After a few seasons of trying to channel Tyler Greene's Triple-A success into major league contribution, the Cardinals traded the 2005 first-round pick to the Astros.

• An inconsistent season is closing with a flourish for top prospect Shelby Miller. In five starts form July 20 to Aug. 11, the righthander went 4-1, 3.64 with no walks and 31 strikeouts in 30 innings.