JUPITER, FL (KMOV.com) – Alex Reyes is a large young man with an easy gait, infectious smile and enormous talent.
Later this season, he hopes to show the world what he can do. But for now, he works on the back fields of the St. Louis Cardinals spring training complex and will stay in Jupiter for extended spring training, throwing every fifth day as though he were in a rotation.
But he is not. Instead, he is serving a 50-game suspension for violation of Major League Baseball’s banned substance policy, an incident for which he continues to apologize. He can be in camp but he cannot pitch in any game in which admission is charged.
Reyes is easily the best pitching prospect in the Cardinal organization with a triple-digit fastball and a nasty breaking ball that gives hitters jelly legs. Pundits said he had an outside chance at making a major league appearance in 2016, until the suspension was announced.
This spring, the big righthander continues to progress, honing his mechanics and perfecting the command of his pitches.
“I’m still a work in progress but I’m happy where I’m at. I’ve been working on throwing more strikes and getting outs earlier in the count so that I throw fewer pitches,” he said from the Cards’ minor league clubhouse. “I’ve spent a lot of time working on my breaking ball command so that I can throw it (when I’m) even in the count or even behind. I think the breaking ball is the best it’s been in my entire career.”
Recent results bear that out. Reyes threw on the back field for one team while Cards’ starter Jaime Garcia threw for the other as part of Garcia’s normal work. Reyes consistently ran his fastball up in the mid-90s and froze several hitters with a sharp breaking ball. He’s added a change-up during his time for the Cardinals that makes his fastball look even swifter. “I’ve been working on keeping the change down in the zone. I feel like I can throw it to righties and lefties,” he said.
Reyes is aware how many people he disappointed with what he called “a bad decision.” And though he has apologized many times since the suspension was announced, he wanted to do it again. “I apologize to the organization, my family, friends and fans who supported me. Who knows what this could cost me in my career. I’ve had to learn how to deal with the struggles of life and I know certain people think a certain way about you (in the wake of the suspension).
“My family has always supported me and been there for me and I need to communicate with them more (in the long season).”
Reyes, just 21 years old, was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012 and has thrown 269 innings in the Cards’ minor leagues, surrendering just 206 hits and fanning 356, an incredible line, considering his age and development. When he first reported to the Cardinals, Reyes was raw, had poor mechanics and no consistent off-speed pitches or reliable control, according to Cards minor league pitching coaches. The Reyes family moved from their home in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to the Dominican Republic in order to give him a better chance at a baseball career. Several teams scouted him as a third baseman and passed on him. It wasn’t until he told a Cardinal scout that he could also pitch that he was given another look and ultimately signed.
He had been consistently improving and developing his off-speed pitches, until the latest setback. “The guys in the clubhouse here, you know, you couldn’t tell (anything had happened). They all treated me the same,” relieving a big concern when he reported to the Cards spring training complex. “Now I just have to work hard and try to get better, compete and be ready.”