ST. LOUIS — On a day that Jose Berrios reminded the Twins of what they gave up on Friday, they also learned a little bit about what they received in that flurry of trades.
John Gant, one of two pitchers acquired from the Cardinals for J.A. Happ in a deadline deal, made his Twins debut by pitching the fifth inning of Sunday's 7-3 loss to his old team. A comparison to Berrios, who pitched six shutout innings in his Blue Jays debut, isn't fair, and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said he was impressed with the newest Twin despite the fact that Gant gave up a run.
"The speed differential on his changeup looks like a pitch you can see missing some bats. That looks like a promising pitch to be working with," Baldelli said of Gant, who was appearing in the 160th game of his career, which began in 2016 with Atlanta. "He throws the fastball in the zone [and] commands it pretty well. The signs are good."
Gant faced the heart of St. Louis' order, and quickly retired Paul Goldschmidt on a ground ball and Nolan Arenado on a foul tip. Tyler O'Neill then lined a single, and Gant's former catcher Yadier Molina followed with a soft liner over the infield — his 2,074th career hit, or one more than Albert Pujols for fourth in Cardinals history. Gant retired Harrison Bader on a popup to end the inning — but not before bouncing one of those changeups, a wild pitch that got past Mitch Garver and scored O'Neill from third.
"I'm glad we were able to get him out there today," Baldelli said. "It was a good start."
Defending his staff
After pitching seven shutout innings for the Class AAA St. Paul Saints on Thursday, Matt Shoemaker said the reason for his turnaround since being outrighted off the Twins roster a month ago is that "I'm pitching the opposite of how the Twins wanted me to pitch," a strategy he said was too based on statistical and video analysis.
"This is not a bashing of the Twins. The Twins wanted to get more out of me in spring training, I understand that," Shoemaker said in a story published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "But unfortunately, it failed miserably, because we're not all robots, we're individual people."
The implicit criticism of the Twins' methods — under pitching coach Wes Johnson and a staff of experts in the organization — bothered Baldelli.
"Matt could certainly expressed himself in a better fashion. There are more productive ways to do that than what he chose," Baldelli said.
And he defended his staff, which improved the Twins' pitching success in each of their first two seasons before suffering disastrous results in 2021, partly because of Shoemaker's 8.06 ERA and 27 walks and 15 home runs in 60⅓ innings.
"Our staff here, our pitching guys, they're very good at what they do, and I have complete faith that there is a way to get to every one of the pitchers that we have," Baldelli said. "Our guys are going to find all of the different ways to connect and get the most out of all our pitchers."
Whatever the reason, Shoemaker has been a different pitcher for St. Paul. In four appearances, including three starts, the 34-year-old righthander has held Class AAA hitters to a .182 average and has posted a 1.80 ERA, likely putting him in line for a return to Target Field later this season.
Josh Donaldson missed his third game in a row Sunday after his hamstring tightened before Friday's game. Luis Arraez replaced the veteran third baseman, who has sat out 43 of the Twins' 126 games this season.