On February 14th, 2017, the Cardinals top prospect and one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, Alex Reyes, was diagnosed with a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament – the injury which requires Tommy John surgery to correct. One day later, Reyes had the surgery and has been rehabbing ever since.
Despite the injury and subsequent surgery, however, Reyes, 23, remained a top prospect (currently 16th overall according to MLB Pipeline) and Cardinals fans remained rightfully excited for his eventual re-debut.
Over the offseason, the Cardinals targeted mid-May as a potential starting place for his rehab assignment, but cautioned that they’d take things slowly and even start him out in the big league bullpen (after a rehab assignment in the minors) for the remainder of the year to ease him back into things. However, after the start of the season, that tune began to change, and Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak even hinted that Reyes could not only return to the big league rotation this season, but do so before the end of May. It was an aggressive change of pace, but given some of the injuries and related issues in the Cardinals rotation, the anxiousness was, at a minimum, understandable (if ill-advised).
After just four rehab appearances in the Minors (and they were impressive, too, as he struck out 44 and walked just 7 in 23 scoreless innings) Reyes was able to make it back to the big leagues for a start before the end of May. But perhaps unsurprisingly, that start did not end well. Despite not allowing a run yesterday, Reyes experienced some issues with control and lost some velocity, before eventually being pulled from the game after four innings.
Although I’m sure some Cardinals fans held out hope that the early pull was part of a plan, it was not. It turned out Reyes suffered another injury – this time a right lat strain – and will head back to the disabled list:
Today, the #STLCards recalled LHP Austin Gomber, RHP Mike Mayers and 1B Luke Voit from Memphis (AAA). RHP Alex Reyes has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right lat strain, while OF Tyler O'Neill and RHP John Gant have been optioned to the triple-A Redbirds. pic.twitter.com/aoaKZjGUPL
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) May 31, 2018
Because the extent of the injury is not yet known, it’s hard to say what impact this will have on the Cardinals. It’s entirely possible, given that this was not a re-aggravation of the UCL that landed him on the shelf for over a year in the first place, that he won’t be gone long, but, again … who knows.
I will say that this sort of seemingly unrelated injury is precisely why teams like the Cubs like to take a long time to ease players back into action after injuries. The goal should never really be to get a player back as soon as possible, it should be to get him back fully healthy for as long as possible. And, sadly, rushing Reyes back into the rotation (when they seemed adamant that they wanted to protect their top prospect as much as possible) might’ve contributed to this injury. Although, to be quite clear, that’s just me guessing.
To be even more clear, I’m not happy AT ALL that Reyes is back up on the shelf – you never wish that on any player – but we can’t ignore the potential impact on the NL Central. The Cardinals rotation currently ranks among the top 10 in WAR, but was about to get a huge boost in the form of Reyes. And of course, they’re currently playing without Adam Wainwright (60-Day DL) and Carlos Martinez (10-day DL, identical right lat strain) as it is, so they’ve certainly got their hands full as it is.
Perhaps we’ll be able to better identify the future impact of this injury once more information comes out, but for now, there it is.
UPDATE: Apparently GM Mike Girsch had some bad news to report:
GM Girsch: “Alex Reyes has a significant lat strain” … said Reyes will miss more than just a couple starts #stlcards
— Benjamin Hochman (@hochman) May 31, 2018