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Alex Reyes Will Work In Rotation—Eventually

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Whatever awaited him at spring training—more rehab, spot starts, leftover innings in relief—perpetual prospect Alex Reyes had a clear view of where he wanted to be on Opening Day.

Somewhere on the roster.

Reyes, a 24-year-old righthander, ended two years filled with two surgeries, lengthy rehabs and recurring uncertainties by winning a spot in the big league bullpen. The Cardinals plan is to use him first as a high-leverage reliever, and if he does well in that role they will move him, over time, toward the rotation.

"He wants to pitch in the big leagues,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. "It wasn’t going to happen as a starter. The reality is (he) hasn’t pitched in two years, and how are we going to think about you carrying a load of a starter? We will get (him) healthy. We will get you in the big league competition.”

Four times Reyes has ranked as the system's No. 1 prospect, and after making his big league debut in 2016 he still remains eligible for the Rookie of the Year award because of injuries that have kept him sidelined.

He had Tommy John surgery in 2017. A year later, he completed a dominant rehab assignment and scored a big league start. It lasted four innings, and his velocity dropped and his shoulder failed. Soreness in the joint became a tear, and that led to a surgery and another lost season.

"It’s more important for me to be healthy right now,” Reyes said. "I honestly believe that if I’m healthy, everything else will take care of itself.”

Back from shoulder surgery, Reyes still has a high-octane fastball that touches 98 mph and spikes toward 100. He has a power curveball and a wily slider, and the team has asked him to return to the changeup that he rode through the minors.

The Cardinals have said they will use Reyes in save situations. They said they will also consider him for a rotation spot. But to get there the Cardinals must massage Reyes' innings so that he has a chance to build endurance.

In the bigger picture: The Cardinals want him to contribute to 2019 but impact 2020—as a starter.

REDBIRD CHIRPS

— Third baseman Nolan Gorman, the Cardinals’ first pick in 2018, opened the season where he finished his first pro summer—at low Class A Peoria. He hit .202/.280/.426 with six homers in his first turn there. At 18, he’ll remain one of the youngest players in the Midwest League, where he’ll at least spend the first two months.

— Lefthaner Genesis Cabrera, who shined in relief during winter ball, will open the season in Triple-A Memphis’ rotation in order to give him more innings and the Cardinals a longer look at his consistency. With a crossfire fastball that zips at 95 mph or higher, Cabrera will factor into the Cardinals’ major league lefty relief discussion throughout the summer.

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