Prized pitching prospect Alex Reyes on Sunday used the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up as an opportunity to apologize to the organization for testing positive for marijuana.
Reyes was suspended 50 games in November after testing positive for the drug for the second time. Reyes was pitching in the Arizona Fall League when the suspension came down.
“I apologize to the organization, my friends, my family for testing positive for marijuana down in the fall league,” said Reyes, 21. “I’m honestly disappointed in myself. It was a huge mistake. It’s something I’m learning about and learning how to get past it.
“It’s been tough dealing with the problems and everything, but I’m looking forward to next season and just putting this behind me and turning the chapter on this.”
Reyes was 5-7 with a 2.49 ERA in 22 starts with the Gulf Coast Cardinals, high-Class A Palm Beach and Class AA Springfield last season. He recorded 151 strikeouts in 101 1/3 innings.
Reyes is not on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster and General Manager John Mozeliak said Saturday that he will not be in the major-league spring-training camp in Jupiter, Fla.
Reyes likely will begin the season at Springfield, with designs on a promotion to Class AAA Memphis. He doesn’t believe his lapse in judgement misstep will hinder his development.
“I’ll be facing competition in (minor-league) spring training and extended spring training,” Reyes said. “I’ll be able to work on my stuff, work on my command as usual.”
Mozeliak described Reyes’ suspension as a “speed bump.” Without it, however, it appeared the Cardinals had the right-hander on the fast track to the big leagues.
“I try not to look at that stuff and just work on what I have to do on the field and being able to pitch every day,” said Reyes, whose fastball rests in the middle-90s. “Me being out there on the mound, I’ve just got to let everything take care of itself. I’m just sitting here doing my job on the field. Bigger guys ahead of me make that decision (about when I’m ready).”
The 6-foot-3, 175-pound Reyes said his secondary pitches have improved.
“I feel like my changeup has been the pitch that’s helped me throughout this last year,” Reyes said. “My curveball has been pretty good. Just being able to command it is what I’ve been working on. I’m excited for this next season. I want to get my walks down. Being able to pitch in the big leagues is something I’m looking forward to.”
Reyes said the suspension has humbled him.
“It was tough just dealing with my family and friends in the organization,” Reyes said. “It’s something that’s hard to explain. I don’t have an answer for it.”
Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said brighter days are ahead for Reyes.
“He knows he made a mistake,” DeWitt said. “He’s a great talent. I don’t know him personally, but he gets good marks as a great kid, one who should have a lot of success with us in the future. He obviously felt badly about what he did, but he paid the price and he’s moving forward.”
DeWitt on punishment
DeWitt is confident the punishment given later this year to the Cardinals from Major League Baseball in the Chris Correa case will be fair.
Correa, the Cardinals’ former scouting director, has pleaded guilty to five counts of illegally breaking into the Houston Astros database and gaining access to propietary information.
“I think I have confidence in the commissioner (Rob Manfred) doing the right thing, whatever that right thing is,” DeWitt said. “I think it depends on the facts. Some of the facts, you know because there was a confession there or a plea. What else they have and want to talk to the commissioner’s office about, I don’t know. It remains to be seen.”
DeWitt said the Cardinals will “just take it as it comes.”
“Nothing’s going to happen real soon, I don’t think, because it’s going to be a while before the sentencing occurs – almost three months from now,” DeWitt said. “I don’t know how all that works, but MLB has said until they get all the information from the U.S. Attorney’s office, they’re really not in a position to make any decision on what the outcome of that will be. I think we’ll just wait and see and deal with it as it develops.”
DeWitt doesn’t believe Correa’s actions should negatively impact the way the organization is viewed by outsiders.
“We’ve got several hundred employees and to have, I think, a rogue element do something that didn’t reflect on the culture of our organization and the type of people we bring in here ... That activity was just an outlier of what happened here,” DeWitt said. “It’s disappointing and it’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.
“Whatever the commissioner comes up with, he will and we’ll just move forward. I don’t get a sense around people that know us ... In fact, Houston has been very complimentary of the organization, but they know there was this situation that developed and it’s unfortunate.”
Gonzales ready to go
The more distance left-hander Marco Gonzales puts between him and last season, the better.
Gonzales recovered from a shoulder impingement suffered in April, but the injury resurfaced in May and damaged much of his season. He finished 1-5 with a 4.69 ERA in 18 starts at Class AAA Memphis, Class AA Springfield and high-Class A Palm Beach. He made one September start with the Cardinals and was shelled in a 2 2/3-innings outing against Washington.
“A lot of ups and downs, but that’s the journey. That’s the road,” Gonzales said. “I had to learn a lot of lessons last year. I learned a lot about my body and the way my shoulder works and the work I need to put in to move forward and be healthy.
“At the end of the season, (it was about) hitting the big reset button. This offseason has been so productive for me. I’m unbelievably ready for spring training. Everything’s healthy and I’m ready to compete.”
Gonzales was married in the offseason and has a new outlook. Adding to his motivation is having a free mind about his throwing program that already has begun.
“I got off the mound (Thursday) and everything feels great,” Gonzales said. “It’s the first time in a long time I’ve thrown and not thought about anything besides where the ball is going. That’s a great feeling. If you’ve ever been hurt before and tried to do anything and thought, ‘Is it going to feel OK today?’ that stinks. So doing that carefree is amazing.”
Outfielder Randal Grichuk doesn’t shy away from expectations. He’s a power hitter and understands that expect plenty of home runs if he can somehow stay healthy.
Grichuk, who will take over in center field, was dogged by a sore elbow that didn’t allow him to throw, then underwent surgery for a sports hernia. He wound up at .276 with 17 home runs and 47 RBIs in 103 games.
“I try not to do a goal statistical-wise,” Grichuk said. “But I think 30 (home runs) is a realistic goal, if we had to set something on there. I had 17 in a little over 300 at-bats last season. I feel pretty confident if I can get in a little groove, I should be able to get to 30.”
The main obstacle against Grichuk hitting 30 homers is his home park, Busch Stadium, where he must perform 81 games per season.
“I think every hitter that can hit home runs definitely feels that way,” Grichuk said of Busch Stadium being paradise for pitchers. “You can see when we travel to other stadiums. The ball flies at some stadiums. I think ours is more of a pitcher-friendly park. The hitters definitely complain about that during BP, jokingly, every day. Especially when it gets hot in the summertime, (the ball) doesn’t carry as much.”