St. Louis Cardinals

When Reyes and Wainwright return to Cardinals, who will be the odd pitcher out?

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Alex Reyes throws during the first inning of a 2016 game against the Cincinnati Reds in St. Louis.
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Alex Reyes throws during the first inning of a 2016 game against the Cincinnati Reds in St. Louis. AP

The St. Louis Cardinals continue to navigate their way through the early schedule with a patch-worked and well-traveled pitching staff.

John Gant will be the seventh pitcher to make a start when he faces the Minnesota Twins on Monday. Sam Tuivailala and Ryan Sherriff, both activated from the 10-day disabled list Friday, rejoined a bullpen that has cycled 13 arms between triple-A Memphis and the big-league roster.

But there are hard decisions looming ahead for General Manager Mike Girsch when right-hander Alex Reyes makes his return from a season lost to Tommy John surgery.

By that time, Brett Cecil, who lasted a third of an inning in the season opener before reporting pain in his shoulder, also will have returned from his 60-day stay on the disabled list. The same goes for starter Adam Wainwright, who likely will make a rehab start in double-A Springfield Monday.

The glut of healthy arms is going to create a log jam on the big league staff, even if it carries manager Mike Matheny's preferred 13 members. Some roles will have to change, but whose?

"You guys saw how many moves we've made in the last seven days," Girsch told reporters Friday. "We'll probably weed it out a little while before we worry too much about how it's all going to fit."

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday, April 11, 2018, in St. Louis. Jeff Roberson AP

Reyes originally was scheduled for a May 1 return and said in the fourth week of spring training that he was on track. But his stay on the disabled list was extended with the signing of free-agent reliever Greg Holland, in order to make room on the 40-man roster.

Reyes has spent that time in an extended spring training in Palm Beach, where he will likely make his first rehab start next week.

"He's not starting at square one like he just showed up at spring training," said Girsch. "His first rehab assignment will likely be multiple innings, not like one or two innings. In some ways it's similar, but he's a little further along that that already."

Reyes, 23, will be limited to pitch count to start and will "climb the ladder" through the ranks of the Cardinals minor-league affiliates, but only as it fits their home schedules. He'll sooner pitch an extra game at double-A Springfield, for example, than take a road trip with the triple-A Memphis squad, Girsch said.

Reyes could make up to four rehab starts before joining the Cardinals.

"He can't be activated until the end of May, so if I could do the math in my head quickly, I would tell you (how many rehab starts he'll make)," Girsch said. "Whatever number it is he can make before the end of May, he'll be required to make anyway.

"At that point, we'll see where he stands and make a decision."

Reyes made his major-league debut in the second half of the 2016 season and went 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 46 innings. He hasn't pitched in a professional game since.

Cards Cecil pitch (AP)
St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Brett Cecil (21) delivers during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs Friday, May 12, 2017, in St. Louis. Tim Spyers AP

Wainwright went on the 10-day DL with discomfort in his surgically repaired right elbow following a start against the Chicago Cubs on April 17. He described the move as precautionary, though he'll miss at least two starts.

Gant will get Wainwright's scheduled start against the Twins at home Monday. He threw three perfect innings to earn the win in a 13-inning game against the New York Mets last week.

Jack Flaherty, who already has filled in twice for Wainwright, is ineligible to make that start since 10 days haven't passed since his last demotion.