St. Louis Cardinal’s prospect Alex Reyes is out for the season after general manager John Mozeliak announced his pitcher would have to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair his pitching elbow.
“It sucks to go through this and miss an entire season, but if those are things that have to happen to get back on the field 100 percent, it’s what I have to do,” Reyes told reporters.
Reyes went 4-1 in 2016 in 46 innings pitched and was poised to become the Cardinal’s fifth rotation starter.
So where do the Cardinals go now?
Luckily for St. Louis, it has a bundle of potential and future starting pitchers, whether they come from the minor league pool or out of the bullpen.
Michael Wacha is the most likely candidate to serve in Reyes’ role. Wacha and Reyes would have competed for the fifth rotation spot to begin with during spring training, so Wacha now becomes the frontrunner to take that spot.
Marco Gonzales is the next best option to take over the fifth rotation spot, but he may not be ready to go by April. Gonzales is coming off Tommy John surgery himself and will be closely watched by the Cardinal coaches.
Luke Weaver could also make a push to take over the back end of the rotation. Weaver spent some time with the big league club in 2016 with a record of 1-4 in 36 innings. He faltered a little, primarily because he hasn’t developed the same pitch arsenal as other big league pitchers.
Weaver is likely to start the season in Memphis as one of the Redbirds top of the rotation starters before making the jump back to St. Louis later in the season.
The Cardinals could also choose the more unconventional route and dip into their bullpen if they feel the younger guys aren’t healthy enough or properly prepared for the big league club.
The only real possibility to become a starter out of the bullpen is Trevor Rosenthal. Mozeliak and Matheny have mulled moving Rosenthal from the bullpen into the starting rotation for the past couple of years, but that would mean he would need to change his pitching style to lessen the strain on his elbow and shoulder.
“We weren’t necessarily just throwing up a smoke screen with Trevor,” Matheny told reporters at spring training. “Let’s put it together and see what it looks like and see what’s best for our club. You never know when stuff like this happens and maybe it is an opportunity. I don’t know,” Matheny said.
A shuffle in the bullpen would also mean one of the younger pitchers gets to move into the bullpen in St. Louis. Miguel Socolovich or John Gant could carry a presence out of the bullpen if Rosenthal were to make the move to the starting rotation.
That idea is still pretty far-fetched as I would expect Mozeliak to go with one of the other options, assuming they’re physically and mentally healthy.
The Cardinals have plenty of options, but the setback hurts them, especially this early in spring training. It certainly changes how they will go about preparing for the regular season, and you never want to start losing depth, especially when it comes to the rotation.
The only real good thing that comes out of this is that it happened now, instead of later in his career when Reyes is expected to be an even more important piece of the puzzle.
St. Louis opens up the regular season against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs on April 2.
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