Reyes making highly anticipated return to MLB mound for first time since 2016

Alex Reyes showed no signs of rust during his minor league work, allowing just 14 baserunners while striking out 44 of 82 batters in 23 scoreless innings.
Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports

MILWAUKEE — Alex Reyes has waited 15 long months for this moment.

Once the St. Louis Cardinals’ top prospect — and the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball — Reyes was destined to join the ranks of great home-grown pitchers before blowing out his elbow and undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2016.

He’ll return to the mound Wednesday afternoon when the Cardinals wrap up a three-game series with the National League Central-leading Brewers at Miller Park.

Called up for the first time in August 2016, Reyes appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals, going 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 46 innings of work but suffered a complete tear of his ulnar collateral ligament during a pre-camp bullpen session and missed the entire season.

He was with the Cardinals all through spring training this year and returned to live action in early May when he began a minor league rehab assignment. Reyes showed no signs of rust during his minor league work, allowing just 14 baserunners while striking out 44 of 82 batters in 23 scoreless innings.

“As far as performance goes, he’s been off the charts,” team president John Mozeliak said after Reyes struck out 13 while allowing just a hit over seven innings for Triple-A Memphis in his last rehab appearance.

Now, he gets a chance to continue what he started in August 2016.

“Watching these guys play and just seeing where they are in the division and competing day in and day out, it’s exciting to think about playing for this club,” Reyes told reporters during his rehab stint. “And to think about being a part of this team and being able to contribute.”

Reyes did not pitch against the Brewers during his short big-league stint, but only four batters remain on Milwaukee’s roster from that season: outfielder Ryan Braun and Domingo Santana, infielder Jonathan Villar and utilityman Hernan Perez.

There could be a fifth if the Brewers choose to bring back Orlando Arcia from Triple-A Colorado Springs in time for the finale. A move might be necessary after infielder Tyler Saladino sprained his left ankle covering second base on a force play Tuesday night.

He’d been one of the Brewers’ hottest hitters before that, batting .324 with three home runs and eight RBIs in 15 games since he was called up May 9. His performance is one of the reasons Milwaukee decided to option Arcia to Triple-A last week.

“It’s unfortunate,” manager Craig Counsell said. “Tyler was getting a chance to play pretty regularly and he was doing a nice job. It’s just one of those bad-luck things.”

Right-hander Junior Guerra (3-3, 2.98) gets the start for Milwaukee. Guerra has found a groove this month, going 1-0 with a 2.76 ERA over his last three starts and is holding opponents to a .214 batting average on the season.

He received a no-decision his last time out when the Mets managed just two runs on five hits over six innings.

Guerra faced St. Louis once already this season, allowing only a run over 5 1/3 innings to earn a victory April 1. In five career starts against the Cardinals, he’s 2-2 with a 4.74 ERA.