Alex Reyes was the best closer in baseball in the first half of the season. Now, the St. Louis Cardinals have no choice but to remove him from the ninth inning.
Just as the St. Louis Cardinals expressed confidence about Alex Reyes as the team’s closer, his struggles have reached the point where they can no longer ignore them.
On Sunday, in the ninth inning of a 3-1 ballgame against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Reyes allowed a game-ending three-run homer to seal a 4-3 loss. It was the gut punch of all gut punches and just when it looked like the Cardinals had some momentum in the National League Wild Card race, once climbing to 3.5 games back of the Cincinnati Reds, they fell right back to where they started.
Now, let’s be clear. That is a situation that Reyes should have been in. He hadn’t walked a batter in his last eight appearances and was 8 for 8 in save opportunities against the Pirates this season. But now manager Mike Shildt is evaluating the best place for Reyes, with there being a real possibility that he is removed from the closer spot.
It’s a drastic fall for Reyes, who was arguably the best reliever in the National League in the first half of the season. He made the All-Star team and held an ERA under 1.00 for most of the first 81 games. Now, his ERA has soared to 2.95 and he’s walking almost a batter per inning (44 walks in 58 innings).
Not only does it change his outlook on this season, with Shildt confirming that the team will evaluate other options in the ninth inning going forward. But Reyes was expected to jump to the rotation next year. His issue this season has been consistently locating pitches. If he’s struggled doing that in one inning stints and in less than 60 total innings, how would he fare in an extended workload that would surely have him pitching over 100 innings?
Then there’s also the injury concerns, as Reyes, 27, has dealt with an assortment of serious injuries throughout his young career. If Reyes isn’t the closer and he isn’t in the rotation, where do the Cardinals put him?
That’s a question that will face Shildt and the Cardinals now and in the offseason. But it appears that Reyes’ days as the team’s closer are all but over.