Reyes: Why the On-the-Job Training?

Prize rookie Anthony Reyes is learning a new pitch this spring. Brian Walton wonders not "Why?", but "Why now?"

In Friday's Post-Dispatch, Derrick Goold shares the news that prized rookie Anthony Reyes is being pushed by Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan to learn a two-seam fastball.

The stated reason for this is to give Reyes a pitch that will ride low in the strike zone to retire difficult hitters – a pitch that other members of the Cards' stellar rotation apparently already employ. The new pitch would be seen as a complement to Reyes' specialty, his "live wire" four-seamer that would remain his "out" pitch.

Makes complete sense, right?

Well, hold on a minute.

We have here a young man under intense pressure and scrutiny as the top prospect in the system, fighting for his professional life just to make his first major league club.

Reyes is not assured of even a roster spot, let alone a place in the rotation. To make matters worse, his primary competition is a seasoned veteran who was good enough to secure a $22.5 million contract a few years ago.

Isn't that enough to heap onto Reyes' plate without also forcing him to try to learn a new pitch during Spring Training as a condition of making the team?

Said Reyes to the P-D, "It's tough. I'm not used to throwing that kind of pitch. I'm used to just bringing the four-seams. But (the two-seam is) what they want me to do. If that's what I need to do to make this club, then that's what I'm going to do."

Isn't that comforting? Putting aside the confidence factor lost upon seeing his new pitch get blasted time and again all over the park, just why is this happening now?

Exactly what in the heck has Reyes been doing in the minor leagues the past few seasons? If he had not been working on preparing a major-league pitching repertoire, was he just firing chin-high fastballs at everyone and padding his strikeout counts in Triple-A?

This is what really frosts me. Goold's article goes on to explain that Duncan first asked Reyes to pick up the two-seamer a year ago.

So, what has happened in the 12 months since then? Did Reyes come down with a case on amnesia or just blow off the instructions of his major league pitching coach? Or perhaps, is there a communication problem between the coaches? Do Duncan and Memphis pitching coach Dyar Miller not talk to each other, or what?

Don't these guys have a plan? If they do, they apparently didn't act upon it.

I can see no logical explanation for this situation other than to draw the conclusion that someone who is a highly-paid professional is not following through on his job responsibilities. I don't know whether that is Reyes himself or his coaches. Even if we ask, we probably won't ever get a straight answer, anyway.

But still, someone should be accountable. Sadly, it may be the Cardinals team and their fans who will miss out – those who were counting on a pitcher to contribute in 2006 who we now learn is apparently not yet major league-ready.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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