Although Cardinals starter Alex Reyes didn’t set down nine hitters in a row on strikes Wednesday afternoon, he pitched four promising innings in his first Major League start since having Tommy John surgery.
A 73-pitch outing in which Reyes struggled with control (31 balls) showed he’s not perfect, but has the composure to be a quality starter in the Cardinals rotation.
After a first inning where Reyes recorded his only two strikeouts of the day, he found himself in a bit of a jam. With runners on first and second with no outs, Jonathan Villar grounded into a double play off Reyes’ signature curveball.
His command left him shortly after, walking Eric Sogard and hitting Erik Kratz on an errant curveball to load the bases with two outs in the second inning. Reyes didn’t look phased whatsoever, forcing a fly-out to keep the score knotted at zero.
Cardinals fans may have gotten a quick scare in Reyes’ final inning.
Throughout the fourth, Reyes, whose fastball was sitting around 96-98 miles-per-hour all game, fell to 91-92 miles-per-hour through the first two hitters of the inning. This forced a mound visit from the training staff and coaches, but Reyes kept shaking his head to indicate he was feeling just fine.
He fired off three fastballs in the next at-bat, forcing Villar to fly out to center field.
While a starter throwing 73 pitches in an outing is well under the league average, easing Reyes back into 100-pitch territory is something the Cardinals will benefit from. The last thing manager Mike Matheny and his squad want is for Reyes to re-aggravate his right elbow and return to the disabled list.
Reyes is best-known for his fastball that can touch triple-digits, but what makes him so special are a pair of sharp-breaking offspeed pitches — a high-70’s fastball and a mid-80’s slider. When he has those two pitches working, he can make the best of hitters look like Little Leaguers.
This was evident when Lorenzo Cain (career .290 BA) whiffed on an 0-2 slider down and out of the zone in the first inning — the first batter Reyes faced in 2018.
While 42.5 percent of Reyes’ pitches were thrown for balls Wednesday, he still escaped away with no earned runs, three hits and a pair of strikeouts.
He showed why so many in the Cardinals organization believe he can be a dominant force at the top of the rotation for years to come.
Reyes’ next expected start is at 7:15 p.m. CT Tuesday at Busch Stadium as the Cardinals take on the Miami Marlins.
Jack Parodi covers the St. Louis Cardinals and you can find him on Twitter @jack_parodi