He will be opposed by Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander, marking the first time that two rookies have faced off in a World Series game since Tony Saunders of the Marlins took on Jaret Wright for the Indians in Game 4 of the 1997 World Series. Two rookie pitchers have never faced each other in Game 1 of the Fall Classic.
"I'm sure anybody going out there will be nervous," Reyes said. "But it's kind of comforting to know that he's in the same boat I'm in."
There is a difference. Verlander was a 17-game winner for the Tigers this year and could win American League Rookie of the Year honors. Reyes won just five games, having been sent down to the Minors and called back up by the Redbirds four different times this year. Ponson beat him out for a spot in the rotation in the spring, but now it's Reyes who will get the ball in Game 1.
Reyes was 5-8 with a 5.06 ERA during the regular season, the fewest victories by a pitcher selected to pitch Game 1 of the World Series. The highest regular-season ERA by a Game 1 pitcher in a World Series was Alvin "General" Crowder, who was entered the 1934 World Series for the Tigers with a 9-11 record and a 5.75 ERA.
"Growing up, I never had anything come easy to me," said Reyes, a 15th-round pick by the Cardinals in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. "I always had to work for what I had. I had to battle through this season and it just worked out that I'm pitching [on Saturday]. I knew coming in here today that it might be up in the air and that I'd get the first game, but I was trying not to think about it."
The Cardinals really weren't hoping it would work out this way, but the National League Championship Series went the full seven games and Game 5 was pushed back by rain. That left Jeff Weaver, Chris Carpenter and Jeff Suppan basically unavailable.
It was either Reyes or Jason Marquis.
"It was not an easy call," Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said. "We wrestled with it. There are just a couple of edges that Anthony has. It's not anything against Jason Marquis, he helped get us here. But the way he finished the season and having not pitched in awhile, it was a tough assignment."
Marquis was 0-4 with a 7.25 ERA in his final five starts of the season and has not pitched in the playoffs. Reyes was 3-3 with a 5.82 ERA in his last eight starts of the regular season and pitched Game 4 of the NLCS.
That's one edge for Reyes, even though he pitched just four innings and gave up two runs in a 12-5 defeat. Another is the Tigers are almost completely unfamiliar with him. Reserve infielder Neifi Perez is the only Tiger on the playoff roster to have faced him and he's 0-for-4.
"That gives you a slight advantage," Reyes said. "But they can still put the bat on the ball. You still have to keep it out of the middle of the plate, try to get it down and get ground balls. The plan is to be aggressive and not be too fine. When the catcher's glove goes up, you hit the catcher's glove, and try not to get into certain counts where they can hurt you."
He knows what's at stake. He does not need to be reminded.
"I have all kinds of friends telling me," Reyes said. "I'm just trying to take it as another game and save thinking about all the other stuff until afterward."