photo: Alex Reyes (Springfield Cardinals)
May 29th cannot come soon enough for St. Louis Cardinals top pitching prospect Alex Reyes.
That is when Reyes is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list and is the potential target date for his return to the big club as he continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery.
In the meantime, though, Reyes continues to do well in his minor league rehab assignment. Really well.
And he did not disappoint one bit at Double-A Springfield on Saturday night in his third rehab start.
Armed with a fastball that sat consistently at 95-98 mph, Reyes gave up just one hit and tied not only his career high, but also the Springbirds franchise record with 13 strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings. The 23-year old threw 60 of 93 pitches for strikes while issuing just three walks.
“He is ready to pitch in the big leagues,” Springfield manager Johnny Rodriguez said after the game. “The reason I say that is the way he followed up his fastball, then his cutter, then the changeup, and the breaking ball. It is such a long breaking ball at 82-83 with late depth and he’s throwing 97. That is a big separation right there.
“His mound presence. He feels really comfortable. There is not a lot of effort in his delivery. He is really in control. He is ready to go. From what I saw today, he can start every five days in St. Louis, but I don’t know when that is.”
The powerful right-hander, who matched Trey Hearne’s team record for strikeouts, called the outing “very positive”. Reyes has yet to allow an earned run through his three rehab starts (one at High-A Palm Beach, one at Low-A Peoria, and now Springfield). He punched out 31 batters over 16 innings in the span.
While he showed improved pitch efficiency in his Monday start at Peoria compared to his outing for Palm Beach, Reyes took it to another level on Saturday, needing an average of just 12.1 pitches per inning . The 7 2/3 innings is the longest outing of his minor league career.
In fact, Reyes had never pitched into the eighth inning before at any level.
“Just to be able to pitch that deep into the game was exciting,” Reyes said. “That’s my focus every night. That is one of the things throughout my minor league career, and even in the big leagues, is getting deep into games.
“Being able to do that was exciting.”
Reyes’ seventh inning was the highlight of his evening. He struck out the side on 10 pitches, finishing off each hitter with a curveball – two looking and one swinging.
“(The curve ball was effective) the way we set up the hitters,” Reyes said. “Being able to get ahead in the count and just having confidence in it. Being able to put it over the plate.”
All night, Reyes was having success changing speeds, going from a 95 mph heater to an 85 mph changeup, and a 77 mph curveball.
He also flashed an 88-91 mph slider/cutter that broke away from right-handed hitters.
“I got that pitch when I got called up to the big leagues in 2016,” Reyes said. “I have just been able to sharpen it up a little bit.”
Asked what has taken the biggest step forward since he was last at Springfield in 2015, Reyes had a quick response.
“Confidence,” he said. “Confidence in my stuff and knowing that it plays.”
One of Reyes’ final fastballs in the eighth registered 98 mph and he looks more than ready to make a major league impact in the not too distant future.
“I feel comfortable and my arm feels good,” Reyes said. “Whatever the teams thinks is right, is right.”
His final step is a start with Triple-A Memphis, likely this coming Thursday, May 24.
Lyons also gets job done
St. Louis reliever Tyler Lyons, who has been on the DL since May 11 with a back strain, tossed a six-pitch ninth inning to earn the save for Springfield. The lefty threw all six of his pitches for strikes, striking out one batter.
It was a successful initial rehab outing for the 30-year old left-hander.
For more – Catch Derek Shore’s in-depth Springfield Cardinals Notebook, posted each Thursday morning all season long, exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.
Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system. Annual members may purchase our new 193-page 2018 Prospect Guide for less than half price. Our limited edition printed edition is sold out.
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.
© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.