Alex Reyes has emerged as “dominant” nearer

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Alex Reyes #29 of the St. Louis Cardinals after recording the final out of the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Busch Stadium on April 29, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

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Entering the season, the St. Louis Cardinals envisioned Alex Reyes playing a big role in the bullpen. He has more than delivered.

The St. Louis Cardinals have had a lot of positive developments this season, but none more so than the emergence of Alex Reyes in high-leverage situations out of the bullpen. He looks the part of a dominant closer, as Jon Heyman of MLB Network pointed out, and gives the Cardinals stability in the late innings that they have lacked in recent years.

Getting to this point was a struggle for Reyes. He has battled injuries in his five seasons with the Cardinals, including surgery for a torn tendon in his lat muscle. It has stunted his development to become a frontline starting pitcher, something the franchise envisioned when he debuted in 2016.

Reyes, 26, has settled in nicely into the closer role. He is one of two pitchers to not allow a run this season while pitching at least 14 innings, with the other being the Milwaukee Brewers’ J.P. Feyereisen. He has saved nine games while striking out 16  and allowing only six hits in 15.1 innings.

Entering the season, the Cardinals envisioned Reyes pitching close to 100 innings in a multi-inning relief role. He has only pitched more than one inning twice and in a recent outing against the Philadelphia Phillies, he pitched two innings and recorded three strikeouts while getting the win.

Reyes will not be able to stay at this pace all season, of course. But he has clearly established himself as one of baseball’s best relievers, despite allowing 12 walks this season, and will need help as the season goes on. Maybe Jordan Hicks returns sooner than later from his elbow injury. Maybe president of baseball operations John Mozeliak pursues another reliever or two at the deadline. Maybe it’s both.

But Reyes pitching so well has allowed the Cardinals to bounce back from their slow start. Considering their top competition in the National League Central is the Milwaukee Brewers, who have Josh Hader and Devin Williams in the bullpen, the Cardinals are not armed with a reliever who they believe belongs in a similar conversation as two of the NLs best.

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