Gast stays cool under pressure in Major League debut

ST. LOUIS — If you expected the rookie to show something, anything, you just don’t know him very well.

“That’s the kind of guy he is,” Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter said. “We’ve had some experience with him at Spring Training. And just kind of getting to know him personally … I mean, he’s a very cool, calm, collected kind of guy.”

So cool that if you walked into the media huddle surrounding John Gast late Tuesday night, you might have wondered if the 24-year-old the Cardinals called up from Memphis to fill in for an injured Jake Westbrook really just earned a 10-4 win against the New York Mets in his Major League debut.

The left-hander answered questions about the occasion in the same no-nonsense, matter-of-fact way he had mowed down the Mets early on, turning 50 pitches into five scoreless innings.

Had you dreamed about this moment, growing up as a kid?

“Of course. Everybody does.”

How did reality match the dream?

“It was pretty close.”

Was there a moment where you had to stop and think, I am pitching in the big leagues here?

“Maybe when I came in the dugout after the first inning. It kind of hit me, I guess.”

How will you celebrate tonight?

“My family is here. We’ll probably go do something.”

Don’t interpret those quotes the wrong way. Gast isn’t unfriendly at all, and he opened up more when the questions were about the game instead of him. By all accounts, he’s just a guy who doesn’t really get too excited. That demeanor seems to help him, too.

It showed when the Mets finally got to Gast in the sixth inning. A team that had only mustered two hits scored four runs, the last of which came on a Marlon Byrd homer. Ahead by five, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny didn’t rush to pull Gast from the mound. The rookie responded by striking out Ike Davis.

“I kind of expected that, Matheny said. “He’s not an emotional guy. He’s the exact same, all the time. I’ve been looking at his interviews, seeing if we’ve seen him smile. But, I’ve never seen it before.”

Gast surrendered six hits and four earned runs in six innings. Forty-seven of his 70 pitches were strikes.

“He was great,” Carpenter said.

Even though Gast would never say so himself.