MATTOON — When Alex Reyes and a few other of his St. Louis Cardinals teammates and alumni walked into Laker Fieldhouse on Sunday morning, it was 20 degrees outside. Despite the cold weather, Sunday’s Mattoon stop for the Cardinals Caravan, one of four stops for this group, was the unofficial start of the season.
Mattoon’s leg is one of many on the tour, so the Cardinals are starting to assemble to start the 2018 campaign, and Reyes is ready for it.
“Just seeing everyone for the Winter Warmup and the Caravan, being able to be around everyone, it shows you that the season is coming right around the corner,” Reyes said.
Reyes is anxious to start the season, partly because his season was cut short before it even began in 2017. Reyes had Tommy John surgery back in February, and the Cardinals top pitching prospect – and one of the top pitching prospects in MLB – was forced to miss the 2017 season.
But Reyes has a clean bill of health going into spring training and is ready to make up for lost time.
“I am extremely excited, I can’t wait to get back on the field,” Reyes said. “It’s been a long year, but it’s a been a year where I have been able to progress and do a lot of different things with my body. I am just excited for spring.”
Reyes appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals in 2016 and started five of those games. In only a short time, Reyes lived up to the top prospect hype by striking out 52 batters in 46 innings and finished with a 1.57 earned run average.
In four minor league seasons, the now 21-year-old struck out 449 batters in 334 1/3 innings.
Reyes’ role coming into the season is undefined, though. He could start the season in the rotation, or the Cardinals could ease him back with a spot in the bullpen, which has been shaky for the team over the past year. There have even been rumblings that he could compete to become the Cardinals closer.
Reyes doesn’t even know what his role is going to be in 2018 yet.
“Honestly, I wish I knew a plan. I just want to be ready for spring, and that’s something for the team to decide,” Reyes said. “I am honestly OK with whatever. I just want to be able to help the team.”
Besides the rumors of what his role was going to be, Reyes was involved in other rumors, those of the trade variety. The Cardinals were reportedly in on Giancarlo Stanton and then traded for Marcell Ozuna. Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado’s name has come up along with Tampa Bay closer Alex Colome as Cardinal targets.
Reyes' name is sometimes involved in the rumors, but he didn’t go to Miami in the Ozuna trade, and he doesn’t concern himself with any of the trade rumors.
“I honestly pay no attention to it until my phone rings,” Reyes said. “I just don’t ever pay attention to it, and I focus on the moment.”
Dakota Hudson, who is ranked the No. 7 Cardinals prospect by MLB and the third best pitching prospect in the organization, has had his name dropped as part of the trade rumors.
Like Reyes, Hudson doesn’t worry about the rumors.
“At the end of the day, I am here to play baseball and I am still a Cardinal,” Hudson said. “You don’t really pay attention to it until you get a phone call saying otherwise. You just try and go about your business and try and approach it the same way.”
Hudson was a first-round draft pick by the Cardinals in 2016, and the 23-year old reached Triple-A Memphis last season. At Double-A Springfield last season, Hudson had a 2.53 ERA and started 18 games. He started seven games for Memphis.
Hudson said he had to work on the mental game with the jump up to Memphis.
“The higher you go up, the more mental it is. They always say that when you are going up through the minor leagues,” Hudson said. “To experience it for yourself, it’s a whole different story. For me, I felt like it was going through pitch sequences and knowing certain situations and knowing what the batter is doing in order to pitch more effectively. I thought that was the biggest jump.”
If Hudson makes the same jump this season, he could be in a Cardinals uniform at some point in 2018.
“My goals for this season, obviously every year, make it to the big leagues,” Hudson said. “My expectations are to learn and adjust for my personal play on how I was getting going last year. I feel like I learned a lot and applying that in a more effective way this year.
“I feel like it’s a possibility (to make the majors). I just have to go out and do my thing and hopefully an opportunity presents itself.”