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Cardinals confident Gregerson can close

Prospect Reyes progressing after Tommy John surgery
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Though more experienced closers remain available on both the free-agent and trade markets, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, speaking on the first day of the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up, expressed confidence in one the club already has: Luke Gregerson.

It may not be the splashy sign that most expected when the Cardinals stated their intentions to address a ninth-inning void this offseason, but to this point, it's the move they've made. Signed last month to a two-year, $11 million contract, Gregerson last closed regularly for the Astros in 2016. He lost the job two months into the season, one year after tallying 31 saves.

ST. LOUIS -- Though more experienced closers remain available on both the free-agent and trade markets, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, speaking on the first day of the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up, expressed confidence in one the club already has: Luke Gregerson.

It may not be the splashy sign that most expected when the Cardinals stated their intentions to address a ninth-inning void this offseason, but to this point, it's the move they've made. Signed last month to a two-year, $11 million contract, Gregerson last closed regularly for the Astros in 2016. He lost the job two months into the season, one year after tallying 31 saves.

Mozeliak went on to assert that, should Gregerson not seize another opportunity to close now, the club has sufficient protection behind him.

"I do think, when you look at our bullpen, there's going to be opportunities to see people take on more responsibility or more roles," Mozeliak said. "There's no doubt last year was a disappointment, when you think about the blown saves, close games lost. But we also feel like this year, we have a group of guys that are ready to take that next step up. In terms of who it looks like, it might be faceless today, but I feel like by the time we leave Jupiter [Fla.], we'll have a pretty good idea of what those roles look like."

Video: Gregerson to join St. Louis' bullpen in 2018

And then there's the Alex Reyes factor.

Reyes, who estimated that he's dropped 10-15 pounds since last season, has so far avoided any setbacks in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals have set a soft target of May 1 for his return, and when he does, his fit is likely to be in the bullpen.

That will not only give the Cardinals better control over Reyes' workload, but it would also inject a power arm into the 'pen. And the Cards have already begun to envision how the No. 1 prospect's presence could change the look of the ninth.

"I would love to pitch as a starter, reliever, whatever it is," Reyes said on Saturday. "I'm here to help. Whatever they throw at me, I'm willing to take forward."

Video: Top Prospects: Alex Reyes, RHP, Cardinals

Reyes plans to be back in Florida next week, and he'll begin throwing bullpen sessions when he gets there. He hopes to progress to sessions of live batting practice -- where Reyes will be able to see how hitters react to his pitches -- about a week after that.

"I want to show up to Spring Training," Reyes said, "and show what I have."

As for the Cardinals, what they have now is potential in Reyes, past performance in Gregerson and a collection of other late-innings arms who could challenge for the chance to get closing opportunities if Plans B or beyond are needed. There's still the chance, too, that the Cards change course and pounce to add another option before the start of the season.

One name struck from that possible shopping list on Saturday was Addison Reed, whose two-year agreement with the Twins began trickling out on social media moments after Mozeliak wrapped up a Q&A session with fans.

"I've heard a lot of people write and speculate, 'Are you done? What's next?'" Mozeliak said. "The approach has always been for us, if there's something we can do to improve, we're going to look at that or explore that. I think most importantly, when you look at where our club is today, we certainly feel like we're better off than we were when the season ended. We are very excited about the club we have assembled."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

St. Louis Cardinals, Luke Gregerson, Alex Reyes