One of the game's most exciting pitching prospects is back and he made a strong statement in his return to the mound.
Top-ranked Cardinals prospect Alex Reyes allowed four hits and a walk while striking out six over 3 1/3 scoreless innings in his first rehab start Wednesday night as Class A Advanced Palm Beach dropped a 10-2, 10-inning decision to Jupiter at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.
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Reyes, who hadn't pitched since Sept. 29, 2016 with the big club in St. Louis, threw 43 of 67 pitches for strikes in his return to the hill. MLB.com's No. 18 overall prospect also got ahead with first-pitch strikes to nine of the 15 batters he faced.
Reyes was expected to be a big piece of the Cardinals rotation last season but underwent Tommy John surgery in February 2017, sidelining him for more than a year. He had been impressive in his first Major League action in 2016, posting a 1.57 ERA and 52 strikeouts against 23 walks over 46 innings split between starting and relief roles.
The 23-year-old had been rehabbing at extended spring training and threw three innings last Friday, according to SiriusXM's Craig Mish. Known for his velocity before the injury, Reyes seemed to have plenty of gas in that outing, with Mish noting the right-hander was around 95-98 mph on the radar gun. He reportedly hit 99 mph on the radar gun twice on Wednesday. He's also been praised for his plus curveball and above-average changeup.
Against the Hammerheads, Reyes allowed a leadoff double to Marlins No. 10 prospect Brian Miller but settled in as he fanned two of the next three batters.
Roy Morales and Rodrigo Ayarza delivered two-out singles in the second, but the New Jersey native got Aaron Knapp to fly out to center field to close the inning.
Reyes continued to roll from there, whiffing four of six batters before exiting with one out in the fourth after walking Marlins No. 17 prospect Riley Mahan.
Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2012, Reyes sports a 3.46 ERA and 1.31 WHIP over 337 2/3 innings in the Minors.
It remains unclear whether Reyes, who was placed on the 60-day disabled list in March, will make his way back to the Majors as a reliever or starter, albeit one with a hard innings limit in his first healthy season since the procedure.
With his start Wednesday, the Cards will give him a starting role -- at least initially -- but that approach could change as his rehab continues. St. Louis still hasn't found a consistent rotation spot for No. 2 prospect Jack Flaherty, who has a 2.27 ERA and 41 strikeouts over 31 2/3 innings at Triple-A Memphis and fanned a career-high 13 on Wednesday afternoon.