Matheny digs in to work with prospect Reyes

Cardinals skipper impressed during session from behind the plate

Matheny digs in to work with prospect Reyes

JUPITER, Fla. -- Invited north from his Fort Lauderdale residence to throw in front of the Major League coaching staff, 20-year-old Alex Reyes, the Cardinals' No. 4 prospect according to MLB.com, stopped by camp as workouts were nearing an end on Sunday.

As Reyes readied to throw, the staff realized that the catchers were all occupied on another field.

That didn't slow anything down, however, as manager Mike Matheny grabbed a catcher's mask and squatted back at his old position to play receiver.

"The best seat in the house is up close and personal behind the plate," Matheny said after the session. "With [Reyes], I also want to encourage him. Just let him know that we're watching, and give him a little motivation, too. Me back there, maybe it added a little bit? I don't know. He certainly didn't show it, as he was absolutely terrific."

Top Prospects: Reyes, STL

Reyes went 7-7 with a 3.36 ERA over 21 starts with Class A Peoria in 2014, his second year in the system. He struck out 137 in 109 innings. Reyes, a candidate to begin the season in the Palm Beach (Class A Advanced) rotation, was one of the two dozen Minor League players invited to the organization's Spring Training Early Program, which begins later this week.

However, Reyes may have to miss part of it due to a prescheduled dental procedure. That's one of the reasons the Cardinals called him in on Sunday. He'll likely get an additional summons or two later this spring when the club is looking for additional arms to carry in select Grapefruit League games.

Reyes made a cameo appearance in a spring game against the Mets last year, allowing two hits (both solo homers) and striking out two in an inning. He left with an imperfect pitching line, but Reyes still made a solid impression.

"We want to win the games, don't get me wrong, but it was a great test for this kid and he stood right back up there and never flinched, and made better pitches after the [first] homer," Matheny said. "All in all, I know he has the stuff. It just kicked in there a couple of the things he needs to work on."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.