ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Alex Reyes will return to the rotation when he rejoins the Cardinals, according to general manager Mike Girsch.
Girsch told reporters before the game Monday the 23-year-old Reyes will slide into a starting role, and could be back before the end of the month.
“He will be in the rotation.” — GM Michael Girsch on Alex Reyes return to the #stlcards. He will start Thurs for Memphis and Team is targeting for start in majors as early as May 29, against #Brewers.— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) May 21, 2018
Reyes’ return means tough choices for the Cardinals, who are surviving this season largely on the strength of their starting pitching.
While the club is right in the middle pack in the National League in most offensive stats, they’re starting ERA is tied for the top spot with Washington (2.96). Their bullpen is 18th in baseball at 4.10.
There was always some debate about how best to manage an elite young arm coming off of Tommy John surgery, but given the lackluster and injury-battered bullpen, many figured Reyes would join the relief corps and be a carefully managed, but much needed asset.
The announcement he’ll jump back into the rotation makes the team’s strength even stronger, but means someone has to vacate a spot.
Manager Mike Matheny has balked in the past at the proposal of a six man rotation, and the organization has never seemed to seriously entertain the idea, meaning Reyes’ gain will be someone else’s loss.
But who do does he replace?
Miles Mikolas, his 6-0 record and his fourth-best ERA (2.24) aren’t going anywhere.
Carlos Martinez will soon rejoin the rotation and resume his post as the ace.
Jack Flaherty is the likeliest candidate to cede his spot to Reyes, but he just had arguably the Cardinal’s best start on May 20, when he struck out 13 and allowed two hits over 7.2 innings.
He’s riding a wave of excitement that began in spring and grew more intense when he was called up earlier this season. Flaherty is clearly part of the future core of the Cards, and optioning him to Triple-A means wasting a lot of great innings this season.
Luke Weaver started rocky but has since righted the ship with two strong outings more reminiscent of the skill that secured his rotation role. Also, he’s “graduated,” in a sense. He’s earned permanence at the MLB level and is viewed as a major league asset, not a prospect.
Michael Wacha’s role is fairly entrenched, and even if it wasn’t, his performance makes it nearly impossible to justify pulling him from the rotation. He has his best ERA since his rookie year, and nearly all his peripheral stats are better than they have been in three seasons.
Any of these three pitchers could be moved to the bullpen, of course, but the Cardinals almost certainly don’t want that. Each of them is conditioned as a starter, and would not only need to adapt to a new role quickly, but would have to be stretched back out if they were needed again in the rotation.
Reyes was the best fit for the bullpen given the current state of the rotation. Now the Cardinals need to make a tough choice, or have their problem solved by injury or trade.