Top prospect Reyes returns from suspension

Right-hander throws four scoreless innings for Triple-A Memphis

Top prospect Reyes returns from suspension

Right-hander Alex Reyes pitched for Triple-A Memphis on Sunday, his first start since his 50-game suspension for marijuana usage ended.

The Cardinals' No. 1 prospect and MLB's No. 11, according to MLBPipeline, went four shutout innings and gave up two hits, struck out eight batters and walked three. He began serving his suspension in the Arizona Fall League last season after his punishment was handed down in November.

"It was tough to get in a rhythm today," Reyes said in a phone interview with MLB.com after Memphis' 8-1 victory over Fresno. "I felt like I didn't throw enough strikes, but my fastball was explosive and I threw some pretty good changeups. I couldn't really find a good rhythm with my breaking ball, but I'll work on it during my next start and it should come back."

While working in extended Spring Training in Jupiter, Fla., during his suspension, Reyes had the idea to speak with fellow Minor Leaguers about his ordeal and use it as a teaching moment. He talked to the coaching staff, who agreed that it would be good for the other players to hear.

"I kind of told them what I went through and how this hurt my family so much and how I don't want anybody else to make that mistake," Reyes said. "It was just such a tough time for me, and being able to let these guys know what I went through, hopefully it will change some of their mindsets and some of their aspects of what they think about."

Last season, the opposition batted .197 against the 21-year-old, who posted a 2.49 ERA with 151 strikeouts over 101 1/3 innings over three Minor League levels. The New Jersey native was selected as the Cardinals' Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award winner along with Austin Gomber.

Although his talent on the field is evident, Reyes is determined to reflect a better image off of it. He has a child on the way he says and has changed the way he thinks about life and the way he approaches it.

"I'm not as bad of a person as people think," Reyes said. "I made a really stupid mistake and I own up to that. I just learned that those mistakes will come back to bite you and you have to be responsible."

In his first three AFL starts, Reyes struck out 12 and allowed one run, but he gave up five runs in 3 1/3 innings in his final appearance. Reyes would have been a non-roster invitee to Cardinals Spring Training if not for the suspension, but he could still be a candidate for a mid-year callup.

"[I'm] anxious to watch because his stuff has looked really good," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "All the development people have really liked where he is. We really like where he is. His stuff is maturing as well as him individually."

Nick Krueger is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.