[SEE UPDATE BELOW]

We see it every year, and, when it’s not the Cubs, you think, “There but for the grace of God go the Cubs’ elbows and shoulders …. ”

Pitchers show up for Spring Training, and, be it in their first few throwing sessions, or in a revelation about something they felt during the offseason, something concern pops up. Discomfort. That dreaded discomfort.

Today’s installment, as pitchers and catchers report to camp in both Arizona and Florida, comes from the Cardinals, and it could be really, really bad for them:

When a fireballing young pitcher shows up to camp and immediately complains of discomfort in his pitching elbow, well, it’s reasonable to be very nervous. When that pitcher is 22-year-old Alex Reyes, one of the top young arms in the game, it’s all the more reason for a team to be concerned.

You can read more here from Derrick Goold, and you could certainly take the GM’s comments to suggest the MRI is precautionary, even if the Cardinals didn’t use that term.

There won’t be any official word until the MRI results are reviewed, but rumors are already swirling about the seriousness of the injury:

Let’s be quite clear here: it’s not that uncommon for a pitcher to feel elbow discomfort that turns out to be only inflammation or a forearm strain or something else more innocuous than a UCL tear. We shouldn’t go jumping to any Tommy John conclusions here just yet, even if that is the reasonable concern for the Cardinals.

Whatever the results of the MRI, it’s plausible that the start of Reyes’ season will, at a minimum, be delayed. Given his enormous potential – he’s universally regarded as the top pitching prospect in baseball, and already showed high-level ability in the big leagues last year – the Cardinals aren’t going to push him, especially since he barely topped 110 innings last year.

The Cardinals were hoping to bounce back this season and challenge the Cubs at the top of the NL Central. Losing Reyes for any significant stretch of time would seriously damage that cause.

UPDATE: The official results are not yet out from the MRI, but here’s what Ken Rosenthal has heard:

If the initial opinion was that Tommy John surgery is necessary, then Reyes has at least a partially torn UCL in his elbow. There have been pitchers who have been able to rehab and pitch through the injury (Masahiro Tanaka most recently, Reyes’ own teammate Adam Wainwright a while ago (before ultimately needing the surgery)), but those cases are rare. If there’s UCL damage, the likely outcome here is going to be TJS and a lost season for Reyes. He’s young enough – 22 – that he can come back from the surgery eventually without issue, but the damage to the Cardinals in 2017 (and perhaps the first half of 2018 as well) would be significant.

We’ll see what comes from the second opinion and/or the official announcement for the Cardinals. If Reyes winds up going under the knife, it’s a shame for the sport. That young man has a killer fastball, and could have been the next dominant arm that everyone wants to see.


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