Gomber Ready As Next Man Up

The weather today may be as much of a factor as the game circumstance in Austin Gomber making his Major League debut. Luke Weaver is scheduled to start for the St. Louis Cardinals, but with rain already falling at Busch Stadium, an extended delay could create the need for another pitcher capable of multiple innings to step in.

“I want to pitch Austin,” stated Mike Matheny. “I want to see him pitch, right now. Trying to put him in a spot–we’ve had some tight games. That’s a hard baptism to throw a guy in there right in the middle of a real tight game with guys on base. He wants it. There’s no doubt–he’s not short on confidence, either.”

Recalled by the Cardinals on Thursday, Gomber was just named the PCL Pitcher of the Week for the second time this season. In his two starts during that period, he tossed 14.0 innings and gave up just one run and 11 hits. He also struck out 15 batters and walked only four.

“Would like to get him in there and get a feel,” continued Matheny. “But we also have only so many guys–and we’ve been beating up quite a few of our guys trying to put games away, there’s only so many pitchers that we have that can go more than one inning. He’s stretched out to do exactly what you’re talking about.”

The 24-year old left-hander was recalled to the majors for the first time last month, but did not appear in a game.

“With last time, it was like six guys in six days and I was the sixth guy, I kind of understood what the role entitled,” said Gomber. “Went back down, struggled a little bit when I first got back down, but just trying to get back up here and glad to be back. Obviously, excited that it looks like I’ll be able to get in a game this time and fulfill a lifelong dream.”

With that previous recall, Gomber went 12 days between starts and admits he may have pressed a bit upon his return to Memphis to try and get another call back up. But he points to a different reason for his brief struggle.

“Really, I just wasn’t commanding my fastball and giving up homers,” said Gomber. “Honestly, just tired of struggling. Getting off to a bad start last year, having that bad first half last year I feel like cost me an opportunity to come to the big leagues. By the time I started pitching good, there were already so many guys pitching good, I felt like they had already made their decisions for September. So that was my main goal this year, just coming in and try to get off to a good start–which I did. And then kind of struggled those last two games out, so just tried to get back to that. The way I’ve kind of approach it is every time I’m down in Memphis, just try to pitch well enough to be the next guy up is the way I look at it. For a couple weeks, I wasn’t pitching well enough and the last couple times I was.”

There have been a couple of situations where left-handed batters were going to be coming up in an inning, with Gomber available or already warm in the bullpen. But with no prior relief experience, would starting an inning clean be more beneficial for the rookie?

“It could be, but we need to do it and he’s going to give us our best chance, we’ll use him,” answered Matheny. “Fortunately, we’ve had some righties that have had just as much success against lefties as our lefties have, so we’re going to go with kind of more the pitcher who’s throwing well at the time. But we’ve got a couple of guys who’ve been worked hard, who have been up a lot if not in the game and that’s going to create opportunity for Austin. It’s not just going to be sit around here until we tie a game. We want to pitch him, we want to see what we’ve got. Both times he’s been here, it’s just been a little unique with the situation we’ve had in the pen.”

In nine starts at Memphis this season, Gomber has a record of 4-3 with a 3.60 ERA. He has 63 strikeouts and 17 walks in 55.0 innings.

photo credit: Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com

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