JUPITER, Fla. — An off-speed pitch during a pre-spring training bullpen session effectively ended Alex Reyes’ season before it began.
The St. Louis Cardinals said Wednesday the 22-year-old right-hander will have Tommy John surgery to replace a ruptured elbow ligament in his pitching arm.
“I was throwing a side at home and I felt something different,” Reyes said. “It was just kind of a pain throughout my elbow that I hadn’t felt before.”
Reyes took a pre-spring training physical Tuesday, was sent for an MRI and received preliminary results that evening. St. Louis forwarded the exam results to Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion.
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said Reyes could have surgery as early as Thursday. Cardinals head orthopedic physician Dr. George Paletta will operate.
“It sucks just to go through this and miss an entire season,” Reyes said, “but if those are things that have to happen to get back on the field at 100 percent, that’s what I have to do.”
Reyes said preparation to play for the Dominican Republic in next month’s World Baseball Classic did not cause him to alter his offseason routine.
Reyes made his major league debut last Aug. 9 and was 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA in five starts and seven relief appearances. His fastball averaged more than 97 mph.
“Every time we gave him an opportunity, he impressed us, whether it was how he performed or how he responded,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “There was a maturity. His stuff was pretty easy to see. You’re talking a pretty impressive package just all the way together.”
Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn and Mike Leake are projected as the first four St. Louis starters. Michael Wacha had been expected to battle Reyes for the final rotation spot.
“I’m hopeful that our depth will support having this type of setback, but ultimately, these are never good stories,” Mozeliak said.
Former closer Trevor Rosenthal could wind up in the rotation Rosenthal came up through the minors as a hard-throwing starter before enjoying immediate bullpen success in the big leagues. He had four saves during the Cardinals’ 2013 playoff run that ended with a World Series loss to Boston.
Rosenthal had 93 saves over the next two seasons, then struggled with command and injuries last year. He lost the closing role to Seung Hwan Oh.
Former first-round draft pick Luke Weaver, 1-4 with a 5.07 ERA in eight starts and one relief appearance last season, also will have a chance to earn a starting berth.
“We weren’t necessarily throwing up a smoke screen with Trevor,” Matheny said. “Let’s put it together and see what it looks like and if it’s best for our club. You never know when stuff like this happens, and maybe it is a different opportunity.”