JUPITER, FL (KMOV.com) – In the first round of the 2012 draft, the Cardinals selected Marco Gonzales - a slick lefthander with major league stuff – out of Gonzaga University in Spokane Wash.
In the 40th round of the same draft – where the longest of the long shots remain on the board for small money – the Cards selected another Gonzaga pitcher from the same rotation, little known Arturo Reyes.
Four years later, it appears each have an equal chance to pitch in a future Cardinal rotation.
Reyes did not impress in his first few years and in fact, went 6-8 with the Class (low) A Peoria Chiefs in 2014. He had trouble letting go of bad starts and had trouble commanding all five pitches in his arsenal. Bad outings deeply disturbed him for days afterward. Handling failure is the biggest test for potential major leaguers, any player will agree.
But two things happened to Arturo Reyes that changed his life and put him on the path to the majors.
“I had to learn to let a bad game go,” he said. “I had to learn to create a better mindset. So in the offseason following 2014, I worked at an elementary school in my hometown of Warden, Wash. with kids who had anger issues. It really helped me put everything in perspective. I learned through helping this second grader what everyone was trying to get across to me. It took that outside perspective of seeing and observing (this youngster’s behavior and its impact on his life) to get the point across.”
The result was a potentially career-altering change in his behavior. “I was able to put it all in a better perspective. I taught that youngster that it’s not always going to go your way, even though you want it to. You have to learn to handle that and bounce back. The same was true for me.”
Reyes said he learned to breathe deeply to control his bubbling anger and restore his focus. Now 24 and more mature, he stays in touch with the young man whose emotional response to adversity so closely mirrored his own internal anger issues that together, they made each other better. “I’m still making progress with that,” he confided. “But it helps me that I’m surrounded (here) by successful, competitive people. I’m working on being more even keel.”
The other event that changed the course of his professional life was advice from minor league pitching coach Jason Simontacchi, himself a former major league pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.
“Arturo had five pitches,” Simontacchi said. “A splitter, slider, curve, change and a two and four seam fastball (each with movement). But he could not command all five and got himself in trouble. We took him in the office and told him we wanted him to have three good pitches that he could command.”
Reyes agreed and settled on what he considered his best three pitches, the low-90s fastball, slider and change-up. The result was encouraging. In 2015 at Palm Beach (high Class A), Reyes posted a 2.45 ERA before being promoted to Springfield (Class AA) where he went 7-7 with a 2.64 ERA, good enough to make the jump to Memphis (Class AAA) where he finished the year. Jumping two levels in one season is a good indication of what the Cardinals think of his future.
“I added the curve but I don’t throw the splitter anymore. (Eliminating some of his pitches) was the right move. I’m gaining confidence now. It’s really going well. I’m healthy and my mechanics are good. I’m continuing to work on the mental side. Everyone here has talent. (Success) comes down to how you process (the ups and downs) and whether you can keep your self-confidence.”
If his maturation and pitch command continues, Reyes could well owe a major league career to a perceptive pitching coach and a young child in Warden, Wash.