Perhaps no one is more excited for the 2019 season to begin than Alex Reyes. Injuries have limited him to pitching only four innings the last two seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals.
“It’s huge,” Reyes said during the Winter Warm-Up. “I mean, for me, it’s more mental than anything, just to get out there and be a part of a full season, you know? Get on the flights, land in different cities and just have that you know jet lag and stuff like that. Just being out there and being with the team, being part of batting practice every day, those are the things that I look forward to and I’m excited for.”
“It’s a huge season for him,” Team President John Mozeliak agreed. “In other words, when you’ve had two lost years, the clock is ticking. It’s very difficult to hit the reset button and just make that go away. So for him to be healthy this year, I think, is paramount.”
The good news for Reyes and the Cardinals is that he’s progressing well and in position to make that a reality. Last week marked his first two times throwing off the mound since his surgery. And it wasn’t just fastballs.
“I started mixing in change ups,” Reyes shared. “I threw a few breaking balls on Friday, not on the mound, just playing catch. Now when I get back this week, I should be able to throw more off-speed.”
The 24-year old added that he’s pretty much where he’d be in a throwing program if he had a normal off-season, which bodes well for when he arrives for Spring Training. That said, the team is waiting to decide if he will have a normal throwing program or need to be slightly pushed back.
“It’s going to be something that, I think, the next eight weeks will really dictate where he actually starts,” Mozeliak said. “And I think in that time period, too, we’ll take a heavy look at where we want to see him in terms of role. The best answer for Alex Reyes is going to be answered in that time. But my fingers are crossed based on how he looks, his strength. He definitely took advantage of the offseason. In other words, he’s fit. He’s in a good spot. Now it just comes down to the arm has to work and the arm has to stay healthy.”
And if the arm is healthy, the Cardinals will once again have to deliberate on the question of which is the best path to take for Reyes–a more controllable schedule and workload as a starter. Or fewer innings, but more appearances and a more erratic schedule as a reliever. After he recuperated from Tommy John surgery in 2017, Reyes was working to return as a starter before a tear in his latissimus dorsi brought another early end to his season.
“I would love to be a starter,” Reyes said. “That’s what I’ve been doing my whole career. But whatever the team needs, whatever is going to land me on that 25 man roster is what I’m willing to do.”
With a power arm that is capable of triple-digit velocity and a strong curveball and changeup to compliment, it’s easy to imagine Reyes coming in to close the back end of a ballgame. But those same weapons have proven very effective for multiple innings every fifth day as well.
“I think the organization needs to be prudent in how best to use him, but we also don’t want to wake up at the end of the season and find out he has 50 innings,” Mozeliak said. “So when people talk about bullpen or starter, it would have to be a unique bullpen role where he could pile up some workload. That’s just something we have to think through.”
“I do think the trainers have a perspective on this and then there’s the baseball side perspective on this. I don’t know if we have a meeting of the minds yet, so I do think that’s something that will unfold as we get down to Jupiter.”
photo credit: Bill Greenblatt/UPI, Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com