When you do what Alex Reyes did during his rehab assignments over the past few weeks, it’s hard to temper expectations when it comes to the real thing. On his journey back to the bigs, Reyes was as close to perfection as anyone could have hoped, displaying brilliance in a start each for Peoria, Palm Beach, Springfield and Memphis.
23 total innings. Zero runs. Seven hits. 44 strike outs.
Coming into Wednesday’s start against the Brewers, Reyes was looking downright unstoppable. But a big-league lineup—with big-league plate discipline—would present more of a challenge than anything Reyes saw on his trek through the minors. So how did Reyes fare against one of the more productive lineups in the National League this season?
During his MLB stint in 2016, Reyes walked half a batter per inning (23 walks, 46 innings), so control is not a new concern in his game. It carried over to some extent Wednesday, as Reyes allowed a couple free passes in four innings. When he wasn’t issuing walks, Reyes worked outside the confines of the plate with enough frequency that deep counts were common throughout his start. It might have been the reason for his early departure in the start—but there also might have been another reason.
Velocity-wise, Reyes was comfortably sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball early in his outing, but his speed began to dip as the game progressed. His last pitch of the third inning registered at 93.3 mph per Statcast, and several of his fastballs dropped down to 92 mph in the fourth. To put a pounding in the chests of Cardinals fans everywhere, Reyes received a mound visit during the fourth from a cast including Mike Matheny, Mike Maddux, the trainer and the entire Cardinal infield.
Reyes stayed in the game and proceeded to pump the velocity back up to 96 mph before recording the final out of the inning, indicating he still physically had that in the tank. It might have been a case of Reyes conserving energy and needing a nudge from the staff to convince him to let it eat. That said, Reyes was later lifted for a pinch-hitter after only four innings. While that moment in the game did present a rare scoring opportunity for the Cardinals in a scoreless tie, Reyes had only thrown 73 pitches, making you wonder whether there might be something more sinister to his early departure.
Until we hear an update from the team, it will be hard to tell. As for Reyes’ performance, it featured the nasty repertoire that has earned him the distinction as one of the top prospects in baseball. Though he only struck out two, hitters had trouble squaring him up for hard contact. Reyes scattered three hits through his outing, all singles, and none particularly damaging.
Reyes extended his scoreless streak in 2018 to a remarkable 27 innings across five levels of professional baseball. Now the team must hold its breath in hoping his volatile velocity Wednesday wasn’t a sign of another setback to his health.