(BaseballStL) -- The next St. Louis Cardinals’ pitcher to emerge from virtually nowhere may well be Alex Reyes, a talented, easy-going youngster who took a decidedly different route to the professional ranks.
Born and raised in Elizabeth, NJ, Reyes and his parents made a bold decision: In order to enhance his chances of being drafted, the family moved to the Dominican Republic for his senior year of high school.
Reyes said his opportunities to be noticed in Elizabeth were limited and professional baseball players from the Dominican Republic with which he had a passing acquaintance told him his chances would be more abundant there.
“If you aren’t a Division 1 athlete, it’s very hard to get noticed,” he said. “So we moved there for my senior year and I started going to tryout camps, mostly as a third baseman. When I used to pitch, I threw about 87-88 mph. I had grown a lot and gotten bigger,” says the six foot, three inch Reyes, no relation to Arturo Reyes, also a Chief pitcher.
“I actually tried out for the Cardinals scout there, Rodney Rodriquez, at third base. Then I told my agent that I had pitched so he had me do that as well. I hit 92 mph on the gun when I was like, 17 or 18. I worked out for several scouts, including those from the Astros, Royals and the Cardinals again,” said the easy-going 19-year-old with a quick smile.
As a United States citizen living in the Dominican Republic, Reyes had to wait a full calendar year before he could sign with any club. His waiting period ended and the Cards signed him in late 2012. He reported to Florida where he worked out extensively before being assigned to Johnson City, the Cardinals lowest minor league club. This year, he was promoted to Peoria.
Reyes, like the rest of the Chiefs’ pitching staff, praises coach Jason Simontacchi for his patience and knowledge. “He has confidence in us and talks to us about having a good approach to the game and each batter. He emphasizes to us that our stuff is good enough but we are all capable of doing better.”
The journey to discovery is not without hardship, however. Reyes has had some outstanding games along the way, and some less memorable. But his improvement is constant. Despite being rocked twice, Reyes has 79 ks in just 66 innings and teams are hitting just .198 against him. His 4.23 ERA in early July was inflated by those two bad outings. But since the last one in May, he is 3-0 and has surrendered just eight hits in 18 innings and is living up to his ranking as a top ten prospect within the organization.
“Batters here have good approaches at the plate,” Reyes says of the difference from last year. “They won’t bite on that 0-1 curve in the dirt that you think you can get a swing on.”
Simontacchi’s message of repeatable mechanics and the journey of learning is not lost on the youngster. “He wants us to be confident out there and keep our composure on the mound. He tells us to have a plan or routine that helps us get into the rhythm of pitching. The big difference between here and Johnson City is that we talk a lot about mechanics, about being confident. We come out every day ready to learn something new.”