HRABE: Maybe the best decision for Reyes is the toughest to swallow for fans

Reyes admitted in a conversation on Tuesday that he stayed silent about potential injuries in 2018, not wanting to miss a chance to get back to the big leagues

Chris Hrabe
February 12, 2019 - 3:32 pm
Pitcher Alex Reyes watches his teammates' throw bullpens during Cardinals spring training

(Sam Masterson, KMOX)

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JUPITER, Fla. (KMOX) -  Lots eyes will be on Alex Reyes all spring. The Cardinals' top prospect, two years removed from Tommy John surgery and eight months past a procedure to repair a torn lat muscle in his back, is already throwing bullpen sessions under the watchful eye of the club in Jupiter.

Last year, the team brought Reyes along slowly through spring training. The righthander faced hitters for the first time in mid-March, before being moved to the 60-day DL following the club's signing of Greg Holland on Opening Day.

Reyes began a minor league rehab assignment in May in Jupiter for Palm Beach, and put together video game-type numbers, striking out 44 in 23 innings in four rehab starts across three levels, the exclamation point coming on May 24th for Memphis. Reyes struck out 13 Oklahoma City batters in 7 innings, at one point becoming the first PCL pitcher in 116 years to strike out 9 consecutive hitters.

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Then, Reyes saw his velocity dip in his first MLB start in Milwaukee, and the rest is ... well, the eight months removed from lat surgery.

This spring, Reyes will be on an individualized plan, with the Cardinals taking lengths to tailor his rehab for the next few months. Fans will debate his best fit. Rotation? Bullpen? Perhaps closer?

Maybe the best fit is one that might be hard to stomach in the short term. Patience.

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Reyes isn't going anywhere. He admitted in a conversation on Tuesday at the Cardinals' complex that he didn't want to pass up his chance to get back to the big leagues in 2018, and that could be why he didn't mention any potential issues to the training staff.

"Being patient for an extra month would've been a lot better than having to go through another surgery for another year," Reyes said.

The Cardinals have perhaps more pitching depth than ever. They also have a number of MLB candidates on their 40-man roster out of options, John Gant, Mike Mayers and Chasen Shreve.

Instead of rushing Reyes, and perhaps putting pressure on him once again with the carrot of the big leagues in front of him, why not start him in Memphis where everything can be controlled? His workload, side work, pitch count. It can all be controlled. Bring Reyes along at a pace that forces everyone to be patient. 

And then, turn him loose. 

The Cardinals will need Reyes in 2019. And the Cardinals will need Reyes to be healthy in 2019. A little patience to start the year could yield big dividends to end it, just like it did in his debut season of 2016. And hopefully this time around, for a lot longer.