Phils Getting the Maximo Out of Late Pick

This season was supposed to be a season of getting back on his feet for Maximo Reyes. After missing all of last season because of elbow surgery, the Phillies looked for Reyes to simply get things back on track. The plan was that he would likely be at Class A Lakewood for most, if not all, of the 2004 season. Let's just say that things have changed - and changed for the better - for 22 year old Maximo Reyes.

Maximo Reyes was one of those guys that a lot of teams simply missed. He was from a small college - St.Petersburg College - and wasn't a college player that particularly stood out. Plus, at 5' 9", Reyes didn't have the typical build of a major league pitcher.

As the 2001 Draft was winding down, the Phillies were pouring over the remaining players who were available. The draft had gone through 47 rounds and some teams were starting to call it a day and dropped out of the selection process. The Phillies considered doing the same thing, but decided to call one more name. After all, there was a player there from Clearwater, Florida, the Phillies spring training home, and if nothing else, it would be a nice story.

With their 48th and final pick in the 2001 Draft, the Phillies called the name Maximo Reyes. As many of the pundits poured through their notes looking for Maximo Reyes, the Phillies figured they had just made a pick that was at least a warm body that they could bring in to take a look at. After all, somebody had to the the final Phillies pick of the draft and a 5' 9" pitcher from a small college might as well be the one.

The Phillies certainly didn't have enough confidence in Reyes to start him at their higher short-season league team in Batavia, so they kept him in Clearwater to play in the Gulf Coast League in 2001. The Phillies planted Reyes in the bullpen and hoped for the best. Very quickly, he showed that they had made an interesting pick with their final pick of the draft. While Reyes had a few flaws in his game, he put up impressive numbers in the GCL (1-2, 2.42).

To work on those flaws, the Phillies again started Reyes in the Gulf Coast League in 2002, but he showed that the extra work had paid off. As the GCL season wound down, the Phillies decided to push Reyes a little and moved him to Batavia. After all, a 2-0, 0.35 performance in 22 games in the GCL provided good enough numbers to move him along. If anything, the four games that Reyes pitched for Batavia was a learning experience. He wasn't overmatched, but he wasn't dominant (0-1, 4.70). Once again though, there were some things that needed to be worked on with Reyes.

In the spring of 2003, the Phillies were watching Reyes closely. There was a decision to be made; should they keep him in extended spring training before moving him along to Batavia, or was he ready for an assignment to Lakewood? Not too long into camp, Reyes didn't seem to have the same movement on his pitches. Soon, it became more obvious that something was wrong and before training camp was over, Reyes was undergoing elbow surgery that would keep him out for the entire 2003 season.

For most 48th round picks who seemingly blow out their elbow after pitching in just two short-season leagues, it's generally a sign that they better rely on their college diploma. Again, Reyes already had a lot going against him coming into professional baseball and now, he was damaged goods. What the Phillies didn't reallly count on was how hard Reyes would work. He rehabbed as hard as anyone and rebuilt his determination to continue his professional career.

One year after his elbow surgery, Maximo Reyes - or as Harry Kalas would say "his friends call him Paco" - was back on a mound and showing the Phillies that he meant business. The Phillies decided that they had seen enough evidence to move Reyes to Lakewood for the 2004 season, figuring that he would likely be there for the full season. Not so.

Reyes started his career with the BlueClaws by throwing 21 innings without allowing an earned run to start the season. That streak was finally broken on May 23rd when Hagerstown put up an earned run in the seventh inning of their game with Lakewood. Reyes gave up another earned run the following inning before shutting down Hagerstown in the ninth and earning the win to go 4-0 on the season. Little did anyone know that the final shutout inning would be the last - at least for now - that Reyes would throw for Lakewood. With the need for another pitcher at Clearwater, the Phillies elevated Reyes to Clearwater.

Now, less than 15 months after major elbow surgery, Reyes is pitching at High A Clearwater and has been impressive in his first two appearances. Reyes has pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing two hits and striking out two. The only walk he has issued was an intentional pass. Once again, Reyes has started a streak of scoreless innings, but now, it's at a higher level. The Phillies didn't really figure on Reyes pitching at Clearwater this season and figured it would be much later in the season if he did make it back to Florida.

While pitching for the Threshers in his hometown is a great experience, Reyes doesn't figure to be there for all too long. It's possible that he may be sent back to Lakewood if the numbers game becomes an issue. It's also possible that he'll spend the rest of the season with Clearwater and who knows where that would put him going into next season. After all, the Phillies didn't even know if he would be able to handle the competition in the South Atlantic League, but took a chance. Now, the rigors of the Florida State League are providing Reyes with a bigger challenge. It's a challenge that he appears to be ready for.

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