Thursday, March 5, 2009

The 2009 Starting Rotation Part 4: Anthony Reyes

While being quick to complain about Mark Shapiro trading away several top players for AA prospects in 2008, hardly any Tribe fans praised him for making one of the most shrewd moves of 2009. On July 26th, Shapiro traded low-A reliever Luis Perdoma for Anthony Reyes, a 27 year old pitcher two years removed from being the top prospect of the Cardinals, and a hero of their 2006 World Series team.

Differences in pitching philosophy had been burning between manager Tony LaRussa and Anthony since his 2005 debut. LaRussa wanted him to develop his 2-seamer and become a ground ball contact pitcher, while Reyes envisioned himself as a strikeout pitcher, throwing his mid-90s heat high in the zone. This came to a head during a brutal 2007 campaign, when Reyes went 2-14 in 17 starts, with a 6.04 ERA, before being shipped down to AAA. LaRussa is not known as a man to back down from his opinions, and after a brief and failed stint in the Cardinals' 2008 bullpen, all of the past accomplishments in the world were not enough to prevent Anthony from being given away.

Despite a sore elbow causing an early end to his season, Anthony Reyes pitched far better than anybody could have expected, upon cracking the Tribe's MLB roster. He went 2-1 in his 6 starts, never giving up more than 2 runs in any game. 34.1 innings is hardly enough to make much in the way of judgements, but the kid looked great. Sometimes a change of scenery will do wonders for a young player (see Brandon Phillips). It is interesting to note that Reyes' K/9 and BB/9 went down by more than 2 points each, upon joining the Tribe, while his ground/fly ratio rose from .60 to a career-high .87. To hear Reyes tell it, he was able to do his own thing upon arriving in Cleveland, and felt more comfortably. While his assessment is undoubtedly true, looking at the numbers it is probable Eric Wedge and Carl Willis (who have a known affinity for ground-ball pitchers) reinforced LaRussa's advice, and Reyes took it to heart this time.

As he enters spring training, the fourth spot in the rotation is essentially his to lose. He has more MLB experience than anybody else competing for the spot (the exception being Jeremy Sowers), while also having a more successful 2008 run than any of them (other than Scott Lewis). Reyes has no options left, and is too talented of a pitcher to clear waivers. He has all the talent needed to be a successful pitcher, and he has valuable post-season experience. Hopefully he takes this opportunity to deliver on all of his potential, or at least to deliver his first full MLB season.

Chubby Indian says:
180IP, 14-8, 3.89 ERA, 120 Ks, 80 BBs. The Tribe's pleasant surprise of the year, and a steal who helps alleviate the lingering pain of a stolen Brandon Phillips.

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