Cardinals' Alex Reyes inspired by daughter's battle with cancer to return from injury

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Alex Reyes knows he has a long road ahead as he tries to return from his second season-ending surgery in two years.

But the 23-year-old right-hander doesn't have to look far for motivation. His daughter Aleyka, who turns 2 in July, has been battling cancer since she was 5 months old, he told reporters Tuesday.

"There are some things that are more important in life than this," Reyes said in his return to the Cardinals clubhouse. "I thought if my daughter fought for her life, I could fight for my career, and that's pretty much what's been in my head."

Reyes said Aleyka had tumors around her heart when the cancer was first diagnosed. He said she has had chemotherapy and is improving.

"She's doing a lot better, the tumors are a lot smaller, and hopefully she won't need any more chemo treatments," Reyes said. "She has another appointment in about two months."

Reyes, wearing a sling on his right arm, talked to reporters for the first time since having surgery June 6 to repair a torn tendon in his lat muscle.

Reyes missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery. He returned to the mound May 30 and pitched four scoreless innings. But Cardinals manager Mike Matheny noted a drop in velocity as the outing progressed and took him out of the game.

An MRI showed the torn tendon in his right lat. There was partial fraying between the lat tendon and the bone, so the surgery reattached the tendon to the bone.

The hard-throwing Reyes was one of St. Louis' top prospects when he made his debut during the 2016 season. He finished that year 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 46 major league innings. He suffered his elbow injury in spring training last year.

Reyes told reporters Tuesday that Aleyka's battle helps him remember what is important.

His daughter's cancer, he said, "was definitely a lot tougher situation in my life. To know how strong she is now, and how strong she was through that process, those are things that drive me.

"I go home and carry her and she really motivates me to come back here and work hard and get stuff done."