Pump the brakes on Alex Reyes, the 22-year-old phenom from New Jersey who has already wet the lips of Cardinal nation. The St. Louis Cardinals right-hander has given fans a taste of his starting ability and the thunder he can bring out of the pen the past month.
My advice-- use the kid out of the bullpen the rest of the year unless a need arises. For now, it's how the Cardinals get the most value out of Reyes.
While Reyes was impressive Friday night in Cincinnati, that doesn't mean he will give you a similar feeling during the next four projected starts standing in his way. Pittsburgh, Chicago, San Francisco, and Chicago in Wrigley. If Mike Leake is healthy and ready, there's no reason to overexpose Reyes at this point. Forget the fact that Leake makes a ton of money and needs to start and focus on the kid instead.
When has he been the most lethal? During his first 2-3 innings of work. After those few frames, the wear and tear and struggle begins. He stops locating pitches as well and finds himself trapped in deep counts. Hitters start getting better reads on his pitches.
Remember that he averaged 4.2 innings all year at Memphis before getting the promotion. Remember that the kid is just 22 years old and has a lot to learn at the Major League level. Reyes is a candy store that only a has a light bulb working in one aisle of the 10 column wide store.
This is only the beginning folks. The team isn't holding a commanding lead on the division right now. They are grappling for a one game wildcard play in game. Instead of dangling Reyes over the wolves, it's best to use him in smaller doses later in the game.
I understand the need to want more. In 20 innings, Reyes has taken fans on a wild nighttime ride in a sport car. He hasn't allowed a home run and averaged 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings with an impressive calm about him. However, he has also averaged 4.5 walks per nine innings and if used more against good teams, that mark will rise. There's no need to push, especially if Leake is ready.
Ask yourself this. Do you want two pulverizing rounds of Reyes in the mid to late innings or watch him struggle to get five innings from the start and set up the pen to be fried? Make the right choice. Forget the red or blue pill. Go with the smart choice. Reduce the prescriptions of Reyes on MLB hitters. Don't allow them to see him coming.
He has given fans a nice taste of what 2017 and beyond can offer. If the kid can roll up in Great American Ballpark and hold them to two runs in six innings when Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia get blasted, there's a lot of bright lights towards the next hallways of this tunnel. Just wait.
For now, the Cards will use some smart restraint and dispatch Reyes in games where their starting pitching can't do their job. Put him behind Luke Weaver if needed. Wainwright may need backup or a quick hook as my Cards colleague Corey Rudd pointed out last night on Twitter.
Reyes can be a secret weapon or an overexposed rookie burning oil on a big stage. While it's hard to resist full servings of Reyes fury, 2016 is the time to appreciate the small samples this kid has to offer. It's best to throw the grenade if it's more useful than a full clip of ammo.