Reyes earns another look

Reyes earns another look

CHICAGO -- Asked in spring to add a sinking fastball to his repertoire, Anthony Reyes gave it a good faith effort. But it didn't always work all that well, so Reyes compromised.

The right-hander is following the spirit of his club's request -- that he develop an ability to throw a fastball down in the strike zone -- even if he's not necessarily abiding by the letter. Reyes has spent much of his time at Triple-A Memphis this season working low with his four-seam fastball.

"Keeping the ball down in the zone is my priority," said Reyes. "Keeping the ball down no matter what it is. It's easier to give a guy a different look. I think it's worked very well so far this year."

The results have been impressive, and on Tuesday night Reyes learned that he's been good enough to earn another look at the big-league level. He will start on Thursday against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, and for the first time, he may get a chance to stick for a while.

Reyes, 24, made his big-league debut last summer and more than held his own in a spot start against Milwaukee. He's made two starts this year, and gone 1-0 -- but pitched well enough to win both times. He throws a fastball, changeup and curveball, and he's become more adept at spotting his fastball at various places in the strike zone -- especially low.

"He's a better pitcher this year," said Memphis pitching coach Dyar Miller. "He's a better pitcher this year than he was last year. He's throwing the ball down. He mixes his pitches up. He's elevating more by design."

Reyes has the stuff to get away with pitches up in the strike zone on occasion, but not to stay up there consistently. When he throws fastballs down in the zone for strikes, it makes those high offerings that much more effective.

With much of the Cardinals' rotation struggling, the opportunity is there for Reyes to make more than one or two starts. Sidney Ponson, who beat out Reyes for a starting spot this spring, has been bumped to the bullpen. Mark Mulder is in a deep funk. And Jason Marquis took a severe beating on Wednesday.

So Reyes enters with a clean slate, and the potential to help right the ship. Manager Tony La Russa isn't tipping his hand, however.

"I'm looking at this as, we're playing the White Sox this three-game series and he's got the third game," La Russa said.

Reyes is doing all he can to have basically the same outlook. He swears that even when he was at Memphis, he didn't spend too much time pondering the workings at the Major League level. Instead, he makes every effort simply to pitch his games, and let the rest work out.

"I go out there with the mindset that it's possible that this could be just one and I'm done," he said. "So I'm just going to take it as another opportunity to go out and prove myself."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.