Austin Gomber Earns Role With Versatility, New Pitch
This past winter, with the health he lacked all summer, 26-year-old lefthander Austin Gomber went to work on identifying and sharpening the pitches that he could rely on when auditioning for a big league role.
The cutter Gomber learned in 2018 had morphed into a slider for 2019, and with help from the Cardinals’ analytics department he wanted to make a commitment.
“We landed on a true slider," Gomber said.
But first he had to answer a question.
“How do I throw a true slider?” Gomber said.
Gomber got a grip on the slider and during spring training appeared to have a hold on a role too—he was earmarked to be the No. 1 starter for Triple-A Memphis, and the first callup should the Cardinals need a starter or a lefty reliever.
Baseball’s prolonged stoppage did not erase the impression Gomber made. By the end of summer camp, his performance made the Cardinals’ decision clear: they would find a way to get him into any game they could this summer, even as a reliever.
Gomber began the 60-game season in the St. Louis bullpen as one of a handful of lefties. Slinging his slider to go with a curveball and moving fastball, he could offer multiple innings, a starter for doubleheaders or prove valuable with the new three-batter minimum rule.
“I think with everybody just being flexible and being versatile is what this season is going to be about,” Gomber said. “It’s going to be about guys doing stuff that they typically haven’t done in the past.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Gomber was part of the Cardinals’ revival. Alongside Opening Day starter Jack Flaherty, Gomber propelled a late playoff push in 2018 that fell short.
But then Gomber had a tailwind entering 2019—and then disappeared onto the injured list with a shoulder and arm ailment that remained elusive. By the time he was ready for rehab, the minor league seasons had expired, and there was nowhere for him to get innings to catch the Cardinals’ attention for October.
He did that in March, and then again in July.
— A pair of 2020 draft picks, Jordan Walker (21st overall) and Masyn Winn (second round), were picked to be part of the limited number of prospects at the Cardinals’ alternate training site in Springfield, Mo. Winn, drafted as a shortstop and righthanded reliever, will continue to get instruction and reps at both, while the two high schoolers will also get some competition they would otherwise miss without their prep seasons or a minor league season.
— Outfielder Tre Fletcher, a 2019 second-rounder, was also invited to the satellite camp because the Cardinals want to keep the 19-year-old toolbox of a talent gaining experience around and in the game. One of the plans the Cardinals had for Fletcher, a Maine high school product, was to get him at a place where he could see more baseball, such as attending high Class A Palm Beach games while playing for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate.