St. Louis Cardinals: Reyes return means impeding rotation logjams

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 20: Alex Reyes /

The St. Louis Cardinals have a surplus of starting pitchers and soon some tough decisions will have to be made.

Alex Reyes recently pitched a real game for the first time this season for the St. Louis Cardinals. On a rehab start for High-A Palm Beach, Reyes went 3.1 innings, allowing no runs and striking out six. It wasn’t exactly top notch competition but still solid numbers for his first start off of Tommy John.

The  St. Louis Cardinals have mapped out Reyes’ rehab timeline to weave throughout the Cardinals minor league system. According to some reports the team intends on Reyes making his way to the big leagues around months end or early June. The plan also is for Reyes to slide right into the starting rotation from day one in the majors.

This is where the Cardinals will have to answer some tough questions.

To get it out of the way, Carlos Martinez is the only pitcher 110% safe from being removed from the rotation by Alex Reyes. That really doesn’t need to be said but I’m going to say it to be safe. As of today Miles Mikolas is probably next in the line of being safe. He has been absolutely outstanding and looks like a complete steal by the front office. Unless he hits a wall, he will not be a name in the conversation at any point.

As of right now it seems like the most viable option for Reyes to replace is Luke Weaver. The young starter has struggled his last three starts. This after looking like a breakout season was on its way after his first three. A trip to Memphis could help him get his command back and help him gain a little bit of confidence.

This decision is still a few weeks away so it is completely possible Weaver could turn things around and lock up his place in the rotation. If Weaver settles in and returns to the guy we saw in his first three starts of the season you can’t reasonably take him out of the rotation. You could make a plan to limit his innings a bit, but that isn’t a season long solution.

Weaver hit a career high in innings last year at 138, so limiting him to around 175 this year makes sense for his development. 2019 would then be the year he is let loose with no restrictions. Reyes will also be on an innings limit as well, but mixing and matching these two to fit innings restrictions could end up doing damage to their development.

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The next option is Adam Wainwright, currently rehabbing himself but expected off the DL in the near future. Reyes would have an immediate spot in the rotation if anything else were to befall Wainwright in the injury department. This is worst case scenario though. No one should ever wish injury upon anyone, but Wainwright is on the DL with an elbow issue again and that is concerning so early in a very long season.

The other side is, Wainwright struggles and struggles a lot. If this team is going to succeed season long and compete against the Cubs there may need to be some tough decisions made. One of them may be moving Wainwright from the rotation. This would be a tough move for management. But fielding the best team is most important and tough decisions have to be made along the way.

The last option is Michael Wacha. As of writing this, Wacha is the least likely of the three to be removed from the rotation. After a less than inspiring start to the season, Wacha has settled in nicely. He has only allowed four runs in his last 23 innings. Outside of a complete collapse it is unlikely that Wacha would be removed from the rotation for any reason other than injury.

There will be some that will say the St. Louis Cardinals should just use a six man rotation. In theory that is a solid plan, but Mozeliak has already essentially shot that idea down.  It is something that could obviously still change but unless there is a massive change within the organization don’t expect it.

The St. Louis Cardinals have a problem that plenty of other teams would love to have. Too many starters is quite the “problem” but the Reyes issue has only scratched the surface of the Cardinals log jam. Jack Flaherty is still MLB ready and biding his time in the minors. Austin Gomber is either just as close as Flaherty or creeping up to it and Dakota Hudson is not trailing far behind. The front office has tough decisions to make going forward and I do not envy them.

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We are still a few weeks away from a Reyes MLB return. A lot can change in the coming weeks. Until we know for sure about a Reyes return date and no setbacks are had, speculation is going to be very prevalent. The next few weeks are very important for some of the pitchers in the Cardinals rotation.