Given chance, Gant proves he can be a starter

Given chance, Gant proves he can be a starter

ATLANTA -- Since the start of the season, John Gant has bounced back and forth between the Braves and Triple-A Gwinnett, changing not only teams but also roles.

The right-hander had made all seven of his appearances out of the bullpen for Atlanta this year, but in Gwinnett, he received the starting nod in seven of the eight games he pitched in.

"They wanted to keep me stretched out, so I was starting in Triple-A," Gant said. "And I guessed if the opportunity presented itself and it was the right time, then I could get a start up here."

The right time arrived on Sunday.

After being recalled by the Braves on Wednesday for his fifth stint with the team in 2016, Gant toed the rubber for his first career Major League start, tossing 4 1/3 solid innings in a 13-2 loss to the Cubs at Turner Field.

The 23-year-old surrendered four hits and three runs (two earned) with four walks and five strikeouts. But after allowing an RBI double to Anthony Rizzo with one out in the first, Gant refused to unravel, fanning four of the next five batters he faced.

Rizzo's RBI double

"He kept the game manageable, which is the biggest thing," manager Brian Snitker said. "He didn't let it get out [of hand]. It was still manageable, and we had enough innings to come back. He did a good job, battled through a lot and did a good job of keeping the game there against one of the best teams in baseball."

Gant had found similar success in his starts at Triple-A, where he was 3-0 with a 3.14 ERA and a 48:13 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He had allowed two runs or fewer in five of seven starts with Gwinnett.

As a member of the Braves' bullpen, however, he struggled to replicate those numbers, posting a 6.17 ERA in seven big league relief outings this season with at least one hit allowed in all seven.

Gant said he prefers starting as opposed to being a reliever since it allows him to prepare for games at his own pace instead of hurrying to warm up when called upon. But he waited for his turn.

"If it was up to me and it was my choice, I would like to be a starter the whole time," Gant said. "But you've got to earn your stripes."

Gant was given his first shot at distinguishing himself as a starter on Sunday with Williams Perez and Mike Foltynewicz on the disabled list. With no current timetable for either starter's return, Gant could earn more chances to prove himself.

"That's a tough lineup to navigate through," Jeff Francoeur said, "and I think you saw when he got ahead of guys, he was effective. When he got behind them, he had a few walks. And I thought, 'That's his first start, going against the Cubs and [Jon] Lester. That's a tough call.' But I thought he hung in there and did well."

Pat James is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter @patjames24. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.