Ryan Helsley is back and better than ever for the Cardinals

It's great to see Ryan Helsley back in St. Louis, as his absence was one of the primary reasons for their bullpen struggles in 2023.

Los Angeles Dodgers v St. Louis Cardinals
Los Angeles Dodgers v St. Louis Cardinals / Scott Kane/GettyImages

Ryan Helsley was one of the best relievers in baseball in 2022. He blossomed from a solid reliever into a true lockdown closer. His 103 MPH fastballs were blowing the minds of fans and hitters alike. He pitched to a 1.25 ERA in 64.2 innings of work. This success earned him his first career All-Star selection. He also finished 12th in Cy Young Award voting. Helsley seemed primed for another excellent year when he went down in late May.

After a brief stint on the IL, he returned for just two appearances in early June, before hitting the shelf again. Helsley missed nearly the next three months of game action, with limited news about his condition. There were some fears that he may be traded as well, though those rumors didn't gain serious traction. Some feared he would not return in 2023. Thankfully, he's back!

Helsley returned on September 1st, striking out one in a clean inning of work. Though his velocity was down, Helsley was effective enough to shut down the Pirates. He topped out at 99.7 MPH and only registered one other pitch of 99MPH. He averaged 97 on his fastball, which was a serious reduction from previous appearances.


He pitched again four days later, this time in Atlanta. Helsley was stellar, striking out two while allowing no hits and issuing just one walk. He was also throwing 102, which should assuage any fears of a reduction in velocity. Enjoy watching Austin Riley freeze as Helsley spots his 102 MPH fastball near the bottom of the zone.

This is nearly unhittable. It's the reason Helsley can be such an effective closer. On the night, Helsley topped 100 MPH six times. Expect to see that number increase further in his next appearance. With JoJo Romero hitting the injured list, it's probable that Helsley will move back into the closer role. If he continues to pitch the way he has this week, the Cardinals will be just fine with him at the back of the pen.