Cards top prospect set for long-awaited return

Reyes to make second appearance with St. Louis since 2016

March 2nd, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- Cardinals top prospect Alex Reyes is set to make his Grapefruit League debut on Tuesday in what would represent another significant step in the right-hander's comeback from season-ending surgery last June.

Manager Mike Shildt confirmed those plans after watching Reyes throw his third session of live batting practice this spring. This one came with new catcher Matt Wieters behind the plate and featured Reyes throwing a full array of pitches.

When he takes the mound next week, it will mark Reyes’ second game appearance for the Cardinals since 2016. He had his ’17 season wiped out by Tommy John surgery and made one four-inning appearance last May before undergoing surgery to reattach a tendon in his latissimus dorsi muscle. The last time he was healthy enough to pitch in a Spring Training game, Reyes had yet to make his Major League debut.

“I’m dying to pitch in a Spring Training game,” Reyes said this week. “I’m dying to get out there.”

Reyes will appear in relief Tuesday, but he will spend the rest of Spring Training building up to carry a starter’s workload. As for where he’ll be and how he’ll be used when the regular season starts, the Cardinals intend to take their time before making a final decision.

“All to his credit in how he prepared and trained and his desire to get back and give himself every opportunity to be on our team,” Shildt said. “My confidence level was really high because I knew he prepared and I knew where he was physically and mentally, that he was going to be able to check the boxes. So it doesn’t surprise me that he checked the boxes.”

Medical report

Once Reyes makes his first game appearance, that will leave only two of the club’s 33 pitchers still looking for their first Grapefruit League action this spring. One, Carlos Martinez, is on a no-throw program until at least March 12. The other, Luke Gregerson, is on track to be ready sooner.

Gregerson, whose first season in St. Louis was interrupted by hamstring, knee and shoulder issues, has been encouraged with how well he is recovering following longer (in terms of duration and length) sessions of catch this week. If things continue to trend positively, Shildt said Gregerson will begin throwing off the mound early next week.

Shildt added that the Cardinals are “more optimistic now than we have been” that Gregerson will work his way into games before the end of spring. Nevertheless, he’s not likely to be ready to break camp on the Opening Day roster.

Stuff the ballot box

Voting for the 2019 Cardinals Hall of Fame class began on Friday and will continue at until April 12.

Over those six weeks, fans will have an opportunity to consider six modern players -- Keith Hernandez, Jason Isringhausen, Matt Morris, Edgar Renteria, Scott Rolen and John Tudor -- for inclusion. The top two vote-getters will be announced on April 26 and inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame during an Aug. 24 ceremony.

These two inductees will join at least one other to form the organization’s sixth Hall of Fame class. That other individual will be selected by a Red Ribbon committee that considers candidates who have been retired for more than 40 years The Cardinals also have the option of selecting a non-player inductee.

Worth noting

• Starting pitchers Evan Kruczynski and Williams Perez are expected to pitch multiple innings in an intrasquad game on a backfield of the team’s complex on Saturday morning. Yadier Molina, who has not yet appeared in a Grapefruit League game, will take at-bats.

• Outfielder Lane Thomas, who is nursing a strained rib cage, is targeting a return to Grapefruit League play by the middle part of next week.

Up next

Michael Wacha will make his second Grapefruit League start on Saturday when the Cardinals host the Marlins at 12:05 p.m. CT at Roger Dean Stadium. If efficient enough, Wacha will stretch out to cover three innings after allowing one run over two frames in his spring debut.