Alex Reyes should remain the St. Louis Cardinals’ closer

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Alex Reyes #29 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts after walking three consecutive batters against the Atlanta Braves in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on August 5, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Alex Reyes #29 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts after walking three consecutive batters against the Atlanta Braves in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on August 5, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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Alex Reyes has struggled mightily in recent weeks, but he should remain the St Louis Cardinals’ closer in 2021 — and perhaps even beyond.

Entering the second half of the regular season, the St. Louis Cardinals had a lot of questions and few certainties. One of them, however, was reliever Alex Reyes, whose 0.91 ERA on July 2 put him in the conversation as one of, if not the best closers in baseball.

Less than two months later, Reyes’ ERA ballooned to 2.47. He has allowed runs in four of his last six appearances, most recently a four run outing (one earned) in two innings in a 6-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, and looks nothing like the pitcher who dominated the National League in the first half of the season.

The Cardinals, however, need to be patient with Reyes — and should not consider removing him from the closer role unless absolutely necessary. We are not close to that point yet. Reyes, 26, has always been a candidate for regression in the second half, considering that he has averaged nearly seven walks per nine innings (42 walks in 54.2 innings this season). There is no one who could have predicted struggles like this, though, especially with a Aug. 5 outing against the Atlanta Braves resulting in zero outs, four walks and three earned runs on 21 pitches.

Despite his struggles, Reyes has only blown two saves on the season. When he had that bad outing against the Braves, he came back the next day by recording three outs on nine pitches. He allowed an unearned run on Sunday in a 6-5 loss to the Kansas City Royals, admittedly after a long rain delay, and followed it up with recording three outs in seven pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has shown how resilient he is. He will bounce back. At the time, manager Mike Shildt agreed. It’s unlikely his mindset will change after only 15 days later.

“It’s a great trait,” Shildt said, via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You get in high-leverage situations and things don’t go very well, there are one of two ways that people are typically going to go. You’re either going to get on your heels and get a little antsy. Or they’re not going to make the situation bigger and trust what they do.”

So far, Reyes has shown that he can overcome these struggles. Of course, with the Cardinals’ season on the line, the pressure is on him to turn it around before they completely fall out of the playoff picture. But to even get to this point, he has had to overcome significant shoulder and elbow injuries. This is just a small blip on the radar.

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Reyes should overcome his struggles. If anything, his walk problem could impact his ability to transition to the rotation in 2022 and beyond, not his position as the teams closer in 2021.

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