Alex Reyes’ rehab stint as he makes his way back from Tommy John surgery has been the stuff of legend. The vaunted prospect has fired 23 scoreless innings with a ridiculous 44-to-7 K/BB ratio in that time and, in what is almost certain to be his final rehab appearance, punched out nine consecutive hitters last night.
It’s already known that the Cardinals, who initially were mulling a bullpen role for Reyes upon his return, plan to use him in the rotation. President of baseball ops John Mozeliak reinforced that idea following last night’s start, writes Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, saying Reyes is “likely” to be in the rotation and, more interestingly, indicating that he won’t be restricted in terms of innings. With a late-May start to Reyes’ workload, Mozeliak tells Hummel, “I don’t think he will have a cap.”
That’s not to say, of course, that the Cardinals won’t exercise caution with regard to Reyes’ workload. Logic would dictate that he could be eased back into the rotation in terms of pitch count early on, and with as many as six other rotation options at their disposal, the Cardinals can afford to get Reyes an extra day of rest here or there depending on how his body responds after not throwing a single regular-season pitch last year due to Tommy John surgery.
[Related: St. Louis Cardinals depth chart]
Reyes will step back into a rotation mix also featuring Miles Mikolas, Luke Weaver, Michael Wacha, fellow prospect Jack Flaherty and swingman John Gant, with ace Carlos Martinez also on the mend from a strained lat muscle. (Hummel notes that Martinez’s return from the DL could follow Reyes’ own activation in relatively short order). It’s not entirely clear how the Cards plan to divide up the workload, though pitching coach Mike Maddux rightly noted that any club would welcome the opportunity to have to gameplan for that sort of “problem.” Maddux also points out that the depth will be of particular use following the All-Star break, as the Cards open the second half with six games in a span of five days.
The exact date of Reyes’ highly anticipated return hasn’t been set, though it seems likely to come at some point early next week in a key series against the division-leading Brewers. While that return won’t mark the MLB debut for Reyes, who pitched 46 innings for the Cardinals in 2016, it’ll mark the latest in a recent series of promotions for the game’s next young wave of stars. Shohei Ohtani, Ronald Acuna, Gleyber Torres and Juan Soto (among others) have all debuted to considerable fanfare this season and provided several memorable moments. Reyes looks likely to be the next to step into that spotlight as yet another impressive young talent who’ll be expected to play a key role on a contending club.