ST. LOUIS -- Armed with video games and bodyweight training in his St. Louis rental home, Alex Reyes waited, and waited, and waited.
Reyes -- who confirmed to media Saturday that he tested positive for COVID-19 and that was the reason for his delay to Summer Camp -- hoped for a negative test result each time he was tested. He finally got the second negative result he needed to be cleared for workouts at Busch Stadium on Friday.
On Saturday, 15 days after official workouts began, Reyes made his Summer Camp debut.
“Finally, you got something to do,” Reyes said with a huge grin. “Your days are occupied. For me that was the biggest thing, is waking up and understanding that I finally get to go play the game I love.”
Reyes traveled to St. Louis from South Florida on July 1, and it was during intake testing that he tested positive for COVID-19 and was asymptomatic. He was alone at his house for 14 days. A player must have two negative tests at least 24 hours apart to be allowed in the ballpark. Reyes spent his time playing video games like MLB The Show, Rainbow Six and Crash Bandicoot. He worked out around the house, relying on bodyweight exercises -- lots of pushups, he said -- and he feels stronger now after the two weeks of quarantine and the almost four-month break from games.
“This virus has affected many lives, and thankfully I wasn’t hit with any symptoms [and] nobody who was close to me got infected,” Reyes said. “So for me, it’s a huge positive now that this is behind me. Just looking forward to the future.”
Reyes won’t be available for next week’s Opening Day, manager Mike Shildt said, after not throwing off a mound for two weeks. He played catch Saturday and will again Sunday before the team determines when he’ll throw a bullpen. Shildt said it’s too early to determine where Reyes will be on Opening Day, whether it’s at the Cardinals' alternate training site in Springfield, Mo., or on the Cardinals taxi squad, but facing live hitters and simulated games is easier to accommodate in Springfield.
Reyes will be a needed reinforcement in a Cardinals bullpen that is testing its depth already. So will lefty Génesis Cabrera, who was cleared to work out Saturday, and Giovanny Gallegos, who wasn’t cleared Saturday but was in St. Louis and hopeful to be at Busch Stadium on Sunday. The three relievers’ absences in Summer Camp made the back of the bullpen a bigger question mark heading into the season.
But Reyes isn’t focused on roles. The 25-year-old is trying to bounce back after three lost years due to elbow surgery, shoulder surgery and a fractured hand. He was able to have a normal, healthy offseason this winter and a healthy Spring Training. He stayed healthy during the time off, too, throwing live batting practice and bullpen sessions at the Cardinals complex in Jupiter, Fla. He said he worked up to about two innings each time.
His desired role is simple.
“The roster is appealing to me,” Reyes said. “Just being on the club and getting out there. Wherever I’m thrown at is where I’ll try and get outs.”
In Spring Training, the Cardinals gave Reyes the opportunity to be in the Majors -- most likely in the bullpen -- and were going to let him determine his role by the way he pitched. That’s still in play now, although in a shortened, 60-game season, the Cardinals don’t have to monitor Reyes’ innings the way they might have in a 162-game season. He can pitch his way to a high-leverage relief role with the Cardinals, all with the backdrop of staying healthy and being a starter in future years.
Reyes played the Diamond Dynasty mode on MLB The Show, where users can assemble a roster of players by collecting their cards. He did have his own player on his team.
He was a starter in the game.
That’s the goal.
“That’s my end goal, forever,” Reyes said. “I’ll never stop working towards that.”