Reyes headed for Tommy John surgery, will miss 2017 season
By Derrick Goold | St. Louis Post-Dispatch | February 15, 2017
JUPITER, Fla. • One of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball and an early favorite for a Rookie of the Year award will have to wait a year to prove it.
Alex Reyes has a complete rupture of a ligament in his right elbow and will require Tommy John surgery, the Cardinals confirmed Wednesday morning. General manager John Mozeliak met with Reyes earlier in the morning, and the player and team expect a second opinion to confirm the diagnosis.
Reyes will require 12 to 18 months to recover. Most starting pitchers miss about a year.
"Hopefully he'll be back better than ever," Mozeliak said. "It's obviously very disappointing. Had very high expectations for him. But I guess if you're going to look at it from a timing standpoint, now he has a year to do his rehab and get everything that he's dealing with under control."
Reyes experienced a sharp discomfort in his right elbow Friday while throwing to prepare for spring training. The team put him through a battery of exams Tuesday, the first official day of spring training.
"I was throwing a side at home (in New Jersey) and I felt something different," Reyes said. "I threw an off-speed pitch and I let the trainer know and apparently this is what has to happen. It was just kind of a pain throughout my elbow that I haven't felt before."
An MRI was ordered and the exam showed that Reyes' UCL had a complete tear. The 22-year-old righthander had previously had a partial (Grade 1) tear of the ligament, and he had pitched through flexor pain before.
During an exam of his arm conducted in January the team found no evidence of additional damage.
Mozeliak said this was likely an "event" injury.
That means that it happened while he was pitching, and the elbow ligament just gave way at once, not over time.
The MRI scans are being reviewed by Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday, but the team expects his opinion to mirror the one of the Cardinals' medical officials. The surgery is tentatively scheduled for Thursday in Jupiter, Fla., and Dr. George Paletta is set for the procedure. Mozeliak said that Reyes has expressed an interest in having the surgery done as soon as possible.
"The thoughts going through my head, 'It sucks,'" Reyes said.
The Cardinals had Reyes positioned as a candidate for the fifth spot in their rotation. He had an edge with his performance late in 2016, and he fell short of exhausting his rookie eligibility. Michael Wacha was Reyes' challenger for the fifth spot, and according to some within the Cardinals organization the more likely pitcher to open the season as the starter.
Wacha, who is coming back from a chronic shoulder injury, ascends to the leader for the fifth spot. The Cardinals must see health from him, and the team is unsure if his shoulder will be able to handle the workload of a starter.
The competition will open to include Luke Weaver and, in a role shift, former closer Trevor Rosenthal. The Cardinals have said they intend to "stretch out" Rosenthal so that he could serve as a multi-inning reliever. With Reyes out for the season, there are innings to be had for Rosenthal as a starter and elbow his way into the conversation.
Reyes is not a candidate for the "primary repair" surgery that the Post-Dispatch has reported on and Paletta has championed as a possible alternative to Tommy John surgery, an official said. The reason for this is twofold. First, the rupture is not in a location where it can be repaired at the bone, and that is a requirement for the "primary repair." Second, even if the tear was at the bone, Reyes is not at the same point in his career that Seth Maness or Mitch Harris was when they had the alternative procedure, and with so little data points to draw on there isn't the necessary precedent to know the outcome. Maness is the data to this point.
"When I met with him this morning you could definitely tell that he was down, disappointed," Mozeliak said. "Reality of all this is something I think he had some time to deal with as well. He's eager to get it going and to proceed with his rehab."