PITTSBURGH -- After coming through his 40-pitch bullpen session on Sunday without issue, Mike Leake has earned his place back in the Cardinals' rotation. Leake, who missed two starts while sidelined by shingles, will return to start Wednesday's series finale against the Pirates.
By plugging Leake back into the rotation, the Cardinals believe they'll also be enhancing their bullpen. Alex Reyes, who made a pair of spot starts in Leake's place, will return to a relief role. He'll be a priority pitcher there, too, as manager Mike Matheny noted that Reyes would "absolutely" become an immediate option to pitch out of the back end.
"I think he's flexible in the fact that we get him in where he could pitch in the back end of the game and pitch multiple innings, which you don't see a whole lot of," Matheny said. "I think he's earned that [opportunity] where we'll put him in just about any position."
Since being called up on Aug. 9, Reyes has allowed three runs on 13 hits and 10 walks in 20 innings. Reyes has struck out 24.
Leake, who last started on Aug. 21, rejoined the team over the weekend after being home-bound for more than a week. He estimated that he dropped about five pounds during his illness and acknowledged there is still some fatigue to fight. But neither, he believes, would inhibit his durability in a start against a Pittsburgh club still hanging in the National League Wild Card race.
"I'd still say there is a little energy to gain, but I think I'm at a high enough level to where this shouldn't affect me too much," Leake said. "I'm trying to get it out there and get my strength back. That's where I am right now -- trying to get as healthy as I can so I can help these guys."
In 27 career starts against the Pirates, Leake is 9-5 with a 3.28 ERA.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.