ST. LOUIS - Anthony Reyes was at the top of baseball last October, pitching eight brilliant innings to lead the St. Louis Cardinals over Detroit in the World Series opener.
Since then, he's 0-8.
"He's trying to do the right things,'' Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "Hopefully before long he'll get it all together.''
A 25-year-old righty with a razor-straight cap, high socks and unflappable composure, Reyes was demoted to the minors last month. He'll start Friday night against Philadelphia only because St. Louis pitching is struggling - three former relievers are in the rotation and a fourth, Braden Looper, is on the 15-day disabled list.
Reyes has lost 10 straight regular-season decisions dating to Sept. 6. One more setback and he'll become the first St. Louis pitcher with an 0-9 record since Danny Jackson in 1995.
It's been a boomerang existence. He was 5-8 with a 5.06 ERA in 17 regular-season starts last year and wasn't even on their first-round playoff roster. But after the team's grueling seven-game victory over the New York Mets in the NL championship series, he became the first pitcher with a losing record to start a World Series opener since the Mets' Jon Matlack in 1973.
Reyes took the mound on a chilly night in Detroit with the fewest wins in history for a World Series Game 1 starter. He retired 17 straight batters in one stretch and had a shutout until Craig Monroe homered on the first pitch of the ninth.
But this year, Reyes has a 6.34 ERA. It hasn't helped that the Cardinals totaled only 19 runs in his first nine starts.
"This is a first for me,'' Reyes said of the losing. "Hopefully, it's going to make me stronger and a better pitcher. I think.''
Manager Tony La Russa aggressively accentuates the few positives in Reyes' so-far lost season. When Reyes was sent to Triple-A, he allowed only four earned runs in 22 innings over three starts.
Brought back to the big leagues last Sunday in Oakland, he hit two batters and allowed five runs in the first inning. Reyes followed with four scoreless innings that allowed the Cardinals to rally for a 10-6 victory.
"He's on an uptick now,'' La Russa said. "He's thrown well several games in a row. Didn't he win a game in Triple-A and didn't we win the game he pitched in Oakland?''
After watching his performance last weekend, Duncan said Reyes has work to do to regain his form.
"He hung in there, which is a good sign,'' Duncan said. "But for him to be what he needs to be he's got to pitch with the same attitude he does in Triple-A: be aggressive, trust his stuff, go after people.''
Of the 40 runs Reyes has allowed this season, 24 have come in the first two innings. The Cardinals have considered altering Reyes' warmups to guard against over-exuberance or just as a change of pace.
"I don't think Anthony is real hyper, he just needs to find that groove,'' La Russa said. "And he's working hard, that's one thing that impresses all of us.''
All parties involved are doing their best to squash speculation that Reyes is unsuccessful because of stubbornness, that he leans too heavily on a rising fastball that's effective in the minors but predictable in the majors.
"I think people are making too big of a deal of this,'' Reyes said. "They wanted me to work on throwing the ball lower, and that's what I've been trying to do. You're more effective down in the zone than you are up, I think.''