JUPITER, Fla. • Alex Reyes, throwing hard and freely, would like to be on the Cardinals’ roster on March 29, the day the season opens in New York. But he knows it’s not going to happen as the club carefully monitors his spring work, a year removed from Tommy John elbow surgery.
Reyes, having faced hitters for the first time on Wednesday, will do it again Sunday and it is apparent that he is on track. It just isn’t the fast track. His train has been programmed to arrive on May 1, and Reyes said it’s hard not to want to make the train go faster.
“You definitely have got to pace yourself,” he said Thursday. “Especially being built up as a starter, you’ve got to go through a certain amount of pitches. My job is to pace myself and be smart with the amount of pitches that we throw.
“I’d rather be pitching in game action, but the organization has done this before. If they think that’s right, then I’m 100 percent behind it.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny didn’t see Reyes throw his brief but impressive session a couple of days ago. And he doesn’t want to watch.
Matheny is trying to assure himself to let the training staff continue to outline the schedule.
“Everybody who did see it said it went in the right direction,” said Matheny. “I’m still not allowed watching it. Self-imposed.
“There’s no reason for me to see because he’s not on the option list.”
By that, Matheny said he meant that the club will not even consider having Reyes try to make the March 29 opening day roster although he might appear in some spring training games later.
“He’s doing exactly what he needs to do,” Matheny said.
Reyes, 23, said, “It was huge excitement just to get on that mound (Wednesday). To be able to face hitters for the first time in a year, it was fun.
“I was able to throw strikes. My body feels great. I was just trying to get back to my old self.”
HICKS SENT TO MINORS CAMP
Jordan Hicks, the highly regarded 21-year-old fireballer, has been sent to the special camp for top minor leaguers. Hicks worked in one game last weekend but didn’t pitch on the recent three-game swing to Florida’s west coast.
“He’s got some things to work on,” said Matheny. “We like the kid. He’s got stuff that’s undeniable. But stuff doesn’t automatically translate into success.”
Hicks, seen as a late-inning weapon down the road, has had some shoulder tendinitis in the past and perhaps this is a way to rest him, too.
Newcomer Marcell Ozuna hit his first spring homer, a long drive to left. Starter Adam Wainwright, greeting the righhanded hitter after he came home, said, “I’m very glad you’re on my team.
“I’m glad to be here,” said Ozuna in reply.
Ozunz has fit in well in his first couple of weeks in the Cardinals’ clubhouse. Matheny, asked about the chemistry involving Ozuna, said, “I think that’s been built. But I liked the homer better.
“Dangerous, dangerous hitter. Every time he walks in there, there’s going to be some potential for some damage.”
Young outfielder Oscar Mercado singled three times, driving in a run stole his third base of the spring and also drew a walk. Jose Martinez doubled in the final run in the eighth, an inning when the Cardinals lost two runners, including Martinez, at the plate.
Lefthander Tyler Lyons made his spring debut and allowed a two-run homer in the fifth. Righthander Josh Lucas, an outside shot to be in the Cardinals’ bullpen, worked two scoreless innings.
Lucas throws from a near sidearm angle and Matheny said, “He’s no fun at all for righties and he’s figuring out how to be more effective to lefties. That was something he did in the (Arizona) Fall League. Instead of being so much third-base side with his sinker, which is the tendency when you’re down in that slot, he’s driving the ball to the first-base side of the plate more than I’ve ever seen him.”
GANT FANS 7 IN 3 INNINGS
On Wednesday, swing man John Gant got seven strikeouts among his nine outs in three innings, featuring a higher quality changeup.
“It’s got more depth. A couple of times I thought it was a curveball,” Matheny said.
“It’s such a great weapon because ... you give yourself just as much effectiveness against the righties as the lefties. Whatever he’s done with it, it’s a different pitch.”
Luke Gregerson, the presumptive closer, will make his first appearance on Saturday at Disney against Atlanta.
“Just taking care of him,” said Matheny of Gregerson missing the first week of games. “He had a little longer season than anybody else last year.”
Gregerson pitched till November for the World Series champion Houston Astros and was pitching early in the spring for the World Baseball Classic champion United States team.
‘CARP’ GETS TO THE PLATE
Injured (back) Matt Carpenter came to the plate Thursday. He carried the lineup card. But Matheny said, “He’s coming along well. He’ll be behind but he’ll still be ready.”
Lefthander Brett Cecil, still trying to rebound from a personal tragedy, did not throw his scheduled bullpen session on Wednesday and pitching coach Mike Maddux said, “TBA (to be announced)” regarding when Cecil next would throw.
Matheny said, though, “He’s got plenty of time.”