Cardinals top prospect Alex Reyes returned from a 50 game suspension by striking out 8 in 4 innings of work on Sunday. With the starting rotation struggling so mightily, the addition of Reyes could be the spark plug for a successful summer.

After an unfortunate start to the 2016 season that came in the form of a suspension after testing positive for marijuana, right handed pitcher Alex Reyes is finally back on the mound throwing triple digits in preparation for a big-league call up. He only threw four innings in his season debut, so he certainly needs a few more starts to build up his stamina, but at this point, that should be the only prerequisite for a call up.

The Cardinals rotation has slogged through the month of May, pitching to a 4.84 ERA. Four of the five starters currently hold an ERA over 4.00, the only exception being the most likely candidate to be replaced by Reyes, Jaime Garcia. At this point in the season, we have a large enough sample size to have an idea of what this group of pitchers is capable of, and it’s safe to say this doesn’t look like the starting rotation of a championship-caliber team.

Now, GM John Mozeliak told us bloggers a few weeks ago that he considers Reyes to be one of, if not the best pitching prospect to come through the Cardinals minor league system in his tenure. He must be itching to pull the trigger given their 24-23 record and fast starts by the Cubs and Pirates. However, this front office is not one to make rash decisions, and it’s their patience is what has put this team in the playoffs 5 straight seasons.

Besides, where would Reyes fit on the roster? The idea of using the phenom with a 100 mph fastball in the bullpen is surely tantalizing, but probably wouldn’t be the best use of his talent. In the rotation, the strange conundrum remains. It would be impossible to boot Jaime Garcia (3.59 ERA) or Mike Leake (5 year, $75 million contract signed this offseason) from the rotation at this point in time. One possibility would be for Mike Matheny to opt for a 6-man rotation, a tactic employed by multiple teams in the past to keep pitchers healthy and rested while limiting their innings. The big righty has never eclipsed 110 innings in a season, but even given his early season suspension, the Cardinals may want to be careful with their star pupil.

Either way, it would be foolish not to expect usually consistent performers such as Wainwright, Wacha, and Martinez to right the ship. In the meantime, keep an eye on how Reyes performs down in Memphis, as he could be the difference in getting to October baseball in 2016.

Photo Captured by Billy Hurst – USA TODAY Sports