Young Gant steps in for big Cardinals start

Young Gant steps in for big Cardinals start

PITTSBURGH -- With Adam Wainwright not stretched out enough to rejoin the rotation and Jack Flaherty up against a workload limit, the Cardinals will send John Gant out on Sunday to make his first Major League start in more than a year.

It'll come in a pennant race, as well as with a bit of uncertainty as to how deep Gant can go. Manager Mike Matheny said he doesn't intend to confine Gant to a specific pitch count, but that's not to say there won't be limitations.

Gant hasn't started a game since Aug. 27, when he threw 107 pitches in a Triple-A outing, and none of his four relief outings with the Cardinals this month have stretched beyond two innings. He threw 30 pitches in a Sept. 13 appearance, and 21 in his most recent one on Sept. 19.

"I'm just going to go make the start and do my best," Gant said. "I'm not really approaching it in any different way. Just go play baseball. I feel like I'm pretty loose, and I feel comfortable going the distance, whatever that may be."

With a 13-man bullpen, the Cardinals will not be short in coverage behind the right-hander.

What Gant won't be bringing to the mound, however, is the unusual delivery that turned plenty of heads when he made his Major League debut with the Braves last season. After years of employing a delivery that featured a double step with his front foot and an adjustment of his back foot, Gant said he was told by an umpiring official this summer that the move was now illegal.

Back in March, MLB announced an addition to Rule 5.07 that stipulated that "a pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot or otherwise reset his pivot foot in his delivery of the pitch."

Though he was initially assured that his delivery did not violate the rule, Gant has since eliminated that second step in order to avoid a potential balk or illegal pitch call.

"I'm feeling comfortable without it, and I'm kind of glad that I'm not doing it anymore, to be honest with you," Gant said. "It feels a little smoother, a little freer."

Martinez on the mend

First baseman Jose Martinez has been diagnosed with a left thumb sprain after an MRI and X-rays of his thumb revealed no other significant damage. Martinez returned to St. Louis on Saturday for the follow-up examination after having to come out of Friday's game midway through the seventh.

Jose Martinez exits game in 7th

Martinez had been bothered by thumb discomfort since last weekend, when he jammed his thumb on a swing.

"We'll just have to keep an eye on it and see if a shot is going to be the answer," Matheny said. "I don't think they saw any really bad damage done or something that can't heal with a little bit of time. It's just a matter of how long it takes for him to get back."

The earliest Martinez could return to the field is Monday, when the Cardinals open a seven-game homestand.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.