La Russa: Closing out the Reyes Era

Manager Tony La Russa looks back at former top pitching prospect Anthony Reyes' five years with the St. Louis Cardinals organization on the day the right-hander was traded to Cleveland.

On Saturday, July 26, the St. Louis Cardinals officially ended the Anthony Reyes era, which began with the talented right-hander's selection in the 15th round of the 2003 draft. In reality, though, the 26-year-old's fate was sealed long ago.

The quiet trade to the Cleveland Indians for a Double-A reliever named Luis Perdomo put an exclamation point on how low the stock of the organization's former top pitching prospect had fallen.

With an important post-season victory on the way to the 2006 world championship, Reyes seemed on the way up, but could not put it together in the majors. He was given multiple opportunities to succeed after doing well regularly in Triple-A and even started the 2008 season in the big league bullpen.

Yet, when the club needed fill-in starters this season, Reyes was bypassed by the likes of Mike Parisi, Mitchell Boggs and Jaime Garcia, each making their MLB debuts in 2008. Reyes remained in Triple-A as the three rookies received a total of nine starts this season. Reyes had none with the Cardinals.

Prior to Saturday's game with the New York Mets, manager Tony La Russa discussed Reyes' time with the Cardinals, once more trying to set the record straight on the staff's relationship with the talented, but inconsistent pitcher.

Following are the manager's quotes.

"I think a change of scenery would be good for him. He deserves a break.

"I think it is like with Boggs. You have to be able to do certain things at the big league level in a consistent basis… They are both still young…

"Whether ownership or the front office… I don't think there is anything objectionable. You know, a fresh start works some places. I have a lot of admiration for him. He has a lot of qualities you look for, work, integrity and all that stuff… I wish him well. I hope he does really great. I mean that sincerely.

"I regret some of the nonsense that became a distraction about his style of pitching didn't match. That didn't work in his advantage. You just don't need distractions when you are trying to be… I am talking about veterans; it doesn't make any difference…

"I regret the fact that people brought up the fact that they didn't think he was the right kind of pitcher. Dave Duncan gives every pitcher that comes here his absolute best shot, which has been proven over time to do as good of a job as anybody. It was a story line that kept getting pushed that he wasn't Dave's kind of pitcher. No.

"You can't pitch there (gesturing high in the zone). You have to pitch here (middle) and there (low). Everything that Dave told him is what he tells all these guys. It can happen to anybody when you are younger. It can distract you.

"I think in time, he would have been able to (make the adjustments). He was able to do it and he improved at it. What Dave does is consistently tells you "This is what you need to do. Go do it." He improved working between starts and getting a hold of several things he had to get a hold of. The more he pitched, the more he would have a feel for it, I would imagine.

"That is why he was down there (Triple-A). It was one of the plusses for being down there where he could work on stuff. That is why (Chris) Perez is down there now. Here, you are not allowed that luxury that much."

On why Reyes wasn't recalled to start.

"He had already come up here and not been ready, so what are you going to do? Why do you keep punishing him? Get right."

On whether his time in the pen at the start of 2008 was a success.

"The plusses he had, he showed then, but over time, he still wasn't ready to pitch."

On whether the ongoing speculation on his future might have gotten in the way of his progress.

"Try to use common sense. I mean, wouldn't it? I've seen veterans get distracted. It is human nature. They have a better chance to understand…

"That stuff early on about him not being Duncan's kind of pitcher; that was really not in his best interest, you know? It wasn't really going to help Anthony Reyes.

On whether Reyes had been told what he needed to do.

"We had conversations. He understood. If you think, "I know, I can get them out this way," but you go to the big leagues and you can't get them out, then you go to coach Duncan and find out what you did.

"Like I said, I have sincere respect and feelings for him. I really hope he does, I hope he gets it all together and has a really great career."

On Reyes' World Series victory.

"It was a huge win. And we were good for him."

On whether lessons were learned from the development of Reyes as the top prospect for several years in the context of multiple pitchers, Boggs, Garcia and Parisi, not one, up this season.

"Well let me ask you, Parisi had some appearances. He is back down. Boggs has had some appearances. We're not favoring anybody. We don't have alternatives. Same thing with Perez. The ideal thing to do is bring them up when they are ready. Secondarily would be to get them some exposure so they can get a feel for it. And Boggs will go down with Carpenter coming up to pitch on Wednesday."

On whether the youngsters will contribute.

"At some point. It is important to show them you like their potential, their future but not oversell them, as organizations are prone to do. The game is hard enough. When they come in as the organization's savior or key to the future, it adds the pressure of distraction."

On if there is a benefit that now there is not one guy all the light is on?

"Probably. If they use that to their benefit… If they understand… It is very simple. If they are a starter, are they good enough to be one of the (top) five? If they aren't, whenever they can be. It doesn't have to be now. They will get here as soon as they can, but they have to be able to do some things."

On whether the Reyes case led to learning on both sides.

"I've said many times that in this league, you do what you have to, not what you want to. I don't know that we did anything… We brought him up for one start in Milwaukee… We were trying to work in his best interest."

He had several more good starts, against the White Sox and KC…

"The thing we kept saying was "Look at the stuff he has to do. He is not quite there." Part of what was bothersome was (the talk) that he wasn't the style of pitcher (that Duncan wanted). That had nothing to do with it.

"Are you going to tell me, look at Wellemeyer, Looper, Lohse, Pineiro, that they are one style of pitcher? They're all different but they have to do certain things to be successful major leaguers. There wasn't anything to do with the kind of pitcher he was. I don't think that helped him."

On whether there was a difference in opinion with Duncan.

"I think you guys cover your own (rears) too much. It is nice, but when it interferes with the reality and the fairness of things… If one guy is out there probing, trying to stir (things) up and you are coming back later reasoning, that is b.s. People are trying to stir up some (stuff) for (stuff's) sake and ignore the fact there was a casualty there. Duncan wasn't going to get fired. He might get some boos and some letters to the editor. But the casualty was that this guy (Reyes) was getting distracted… To his credit, he didn't take the bait."

Again, on what Reyes was told.

"It was explained to him, "This is all you have to do". I remember one time in spring training, "I am going to let you watch two days in a row." One day Carpenter pitched and the next day Hudson pitched. "You watch what they throw." Now, Hudson is a little bit different from Carpenter in that everything is down. Carpenter has a four-seamer, he has a two-seamer and a cutter.

"Pick anybody you want to. You tell me what pitcher goes with a four-seamer at the top of the strike zone. You can only do that if you have the greatest curve ball in the entire world and have a third, changeup. And he had a pretty good changeup. But, he didn't have that kind of breaking ball, so… That pitch here (gestures up high) gets hit for distance. Down here (gestures low), it gets rolled through the infield.

"That was part of his learning process. In the minor leagues, he can potentially throw that pitch by guys with slow bats. I think he was smart enough to know. And whether you believe it or not, watch the guys that pitch. He started working on it and got to where I think he could be an effective pitcher. He could throw that four-seamer. Lohse has a four-seamer and a two-seamer. Wellemeyer has a four-seamer and a two-seamer. That is just pitching."

On whether Reyes was told this coming up through the minors.

"That is basic ball, A-B-C in every organization. Early on when you're young and you just get going… That is why one of Duncan's pet philosophies is that when guys are pitching well in the minor leagues, you have to analyze why they are pitching well. And if they are pitching well in the minor leagues because they are doing things they (the hitters) can't touch, but at the next level up…

"If you are pitching well in Double-A, but at either Triple-A or the big leagues, what you are doing, if they are going to make adjustments and get you, down there, you have to start doing other things. You should do them before you go to Triple-A, start working on that thing. That is why some guys reach a level and don't go any further. They get exposed. If a guy needs a better breaking ball, down there in Double-A, even Triple-A, you can keep working on that breaking ball.

"We were going to send Perez down to A-ball or Double-A ball to work on his breaking ball. He has gone to Triple-A and done well. If you are a hitter going to right field, you had better get ready to see the ball middle in. As soon as someone points it out to you, you start making adjustments."

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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