2017-2018 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Marcus Reyes paints the corners in this edition of C’s Chat.
The 24 year-old lefthander is currently his first season of full-season ball with the Lansing Lugnuts.
Reyes is trying to follow up a strong 2018 with the Vancouver Canadians in which he recorded a 1.35 ERA over 23 appearances, a season worthy of consideration for the Northwest League/Pioneer League All-Star Game. He took time out of his busy schedule during spring training to talk about his preparation for 2019.
“Spring training has been going really well. I’ve been throwing the ball well. My teammates are all good and everything right now and it’s actually been pretty well constructed so far. There’s not a lot of confusion with the schedule or where we have to go or anything.
Each day we’ve kind of had like our own blocks that we have to like do or kind of check off. They usually give us about, after breakfast, about an hour to an hour-and-a-half to do our daily prep. If it’s either stretching, for me, I do like my hip and lower half exercises that I need to do to make sure I’m nice and loosened up and ready to go. Usually I’m out on the field like around 9:30. I do that on top of my Driveline balls before. That’s kind of been like my daily routine before I got down on the field everyday.”
With the Blue Jays working to develop a state-of-the-art spring training complex, Reyes says there was a lot of new technology in camp.
“So far, for all our bullpens and our live BP’s, we’ve had multiple Rapsodos put up, radar guns, Edgertronic cameras. They have really stepped up their technology and we’ve all been experiencing it so far.”
The use of the new equipment did reveal something for Reyes to work on.
“I learned that I should throw my changeup off my ring and pinky finger more because sometimes I get too much on top of it and that’s something I never knew because my changeup’s has always been my go-to pitch so that was kind of eye-opening which was cool to learn about.”
Along with the technology, Reyes has also enjoyed is soaking up the knowledge imparted by two former major league pitchers.
“With Rick Langford and Knowlesy (Darold Knowles), I’ve been around them a lot and I’ve talked to them and have asked for a few pointers here and there just to see something that’s happening to my outing or while I was throwing if it’s ever happened to them during their careers because obviously they played 10-plus years each in the bigs so they know a lot about baseball so it’s been cool learning from them.”
Breaking down the 2018, Reyes believes a number of factors contributed to Reyes’ success with the C’s, starting with his throwing routine.
“I hate to admit this but my catch partner Justin Watts, we give each other a hard time but he and I, we had a good stretch and throwing program the whole year. Sometimes it’s like little things like playing catch and working on your mechanics all the time that helps you out.
I think just the atmosphere of Vancouver in general, that’s just a great ballpark to pitch in. I think those are a couple of keys that helped me. And my teammates of course. All great guys, all people that I could call friends or brothers. That makes it a lot easier to pitch and succeed.”
Reyes was happy to see his good friend Watts succeed by getting a save on St. Patrick’s Day against Minnesota.
“It’s always good to see something like that. It’s rare when we get called up to a major league spring training game and see someone actually play so that was really cool watching that.”
Another aspect Reyes enjoyed about 2018 was taking on a leadership role in the C’s bullpen.
“Cy (pitching coach Jim Czajkowski) kind of designated me at the beginning of the season as like a bullpen manager I guess. I don’t know if it’s just because he knew me from last year or what but he kind of just said like, ‘Hey, I want you to take care of the charts. Make sure you pay attention to the game.’ It was cool. If people asked me what they needed or just telling them certain scouting reports and then watching my friends go out there and compete.”
Getting to work with Czajkowski was something Reyes also enjoyed.
“Cy’s a good guy. He likes having fun a lot which is actually kind of cool because it keeps us players relaxed which is what you need over the course of a year. It was actually during extended where he kind of helped me work hard on my mechanics and delivery throughout the year. I had multiple different types of deliveries. If it wasn’t for him embracing it, then I don’t know if I would have been able to have as good of a year that I did.”
The only downside for Reyes was not getting the C’s back to the postseason in 2018.
“Both halves I think we were a game out of first place each time. Obviously in the second half we had the lead going into the last week. It kind of just fell apart but my take on 2018, either way however I looked at it, not going to the playoffs but it was still a fun season. We still went out there. The whole team performed every night. We cared a lot about it. We all got better, we all improved and some nights, it didn’t show or everything. I feel like we all became better baseball players as the season went on.”
One thing that Reyes will always cherish was being part of the Canadians Northwest League championship team in 2017.
“Going up there, even though I was only up there for about a two-and-a-half week stint or a three-week stint that first year, winning a championship in front of that environment was crazy. It was awesome. It was something that you don’t really imagine coming out of college ball and playing in front of almost 7,000 people and hearing them all root for you all at once like that, that was probably my number one moment or memory being in Vancouver.”
Pitching Delivery & Repertoire
When it comes to facing opposing batters, Reyes is not someone who will overpower hitters even though he has reached the mid-90’s on occasion. One way he tries to get the upper hand on hitters is to use a certain delivery.
“I always turn my back totally away from the hitter and it creates that little deception that they can’t see the ball coming out of my hand. Now that’s my go-to and my number on delivery but I do have the pause or the double-pump at the top or even the quick-pitch. It’s tough to do in the course of a game, especially when you’re out there and you’re not really trying to think, you’re just reacting to the situation. It’s something that I work on a lot and it’s something that I’ve actually grown comfortable (in doing). I enjoy doing it a lot.”
When combating opposing batters, Reyes likes to use a four-pitch mix that consists of four- and two-seam fastballs, a changeup and a slider. The latter is what Reyes focused on during the off-season.
“In spring training and extended, I noticed my slider was a little too loopy or sometimes it would back up on me a lot. During the season in Vancouver, I focused on just trying to stay on top of it all the time. It actually was a good pitch for me and one of my off-season goals was to make it tighter. That’s what I worked for all off-season, to create a tighter slider and that’s a lot of progression on it so far during spring training this year.”
Looking back on his career, pitching for Reyes was not his number one focus starting out.
“I’d been pitching since little league. I probably didn’t take pitching seriously until I was maybe 12 or 13 years-old. I was always a position player and then in high school, my first two years I was a two-way (player) and then after that, I became a pitcher from my sophomore year on actually.”
Rancho Buena Vista High was where Reyes attended and he became a three-year varsity player and was a three-time San Diego Union-Tribune Scholar-Athlete selection. He lists three major league lefthanders who made an impression on him.
“When I was younger, Andy Pettitte was someone I looked up to as a crafty lefty and that’s what I’ve been almost my entire life. Clayton Kershaw is one I like as well. There are a lot of lefties I guess, a lot of people I can look up to and watch.
Nowadays, I don’t know if it’s because I’m a minor leaguer but I don’t really watch too much baseball anymore, but I would have to say my favourite pitcher now would have to be probably Blake Snell of the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s a competitor. I have some friends in that organization so I just keep up with him.”
The San Diego Padres, its greatest franchise player Tony Gwynn and his alma mater San Diego State Aztecs hold a special place in his heart.
“The Padres have always been my favourite team. Always rooting for San Diego. I played for coach Gwynn my freshman year and that was a real honour but the Padres have always been my go-to team. I live in San Diego during the off-season and I stay in touch with the (Aztec) coaches and some of the players that are still there. I’ll always root for the Aztecs forever.”
Turning to the present, one thing Reyes tries to do is to stay in the moment.
“For something that actually has nothing to do pertaining to baseball but just sort of mentality is just kind of live in the present moment I guess. I take that out there while I pitch, just kind of absorb what I’m doing at the time. It kind of helps me not worry about what’s going to happen, you know. It just lets me focus on my task at hand. That’s something that they actually harp on us a lot here with our mental high-performance guys. Something that’s kind of like what I’ve tried to do most of my baseball career.”
When it comes to what Reyes wants to accomplish in 2019, it comes down to two things.
“For sure, it’s to be healthy. That’s priority number one. It’s always a good sign if you can go through a full year being healthy. Number two, it’s trying to keep building off the success I had last year and just keep pounding the zone. Make it easier for myself and for my teammates and try and work quick.”
Right now, Reyes is trying to find his footing in the Midwest League. The BABIP gods have not been kind as he has surrendered a .352 batting average on balls in play and has stranded just 50 percent of his baseball runners. However, his groundball rate is nearly 56 percent and his fielding independent pitching mark of 3.11 suggests he’s pitched better than his 0-1, 3.68 ERA performance to date with Lansing.
Things appear to be turning around for Reyes as he allowed just one run over a season-high three innings while striking out three versus Quad Cities May 7. His next outing saw him spin a scoreless frame in Kane County May 11.
Thanks a million again to Marcus Reyes for taking time out to participate in this edition of C’s Chat. For my previous chat with Reyes, click here.