Rob Kaminsky and Alex Reyes delivered a close friendship when they were teammates in the Cardinals' organization. 

By Rob Rains

It didn’t take long after Rob Kaminsky and Alex Reyes met to realize they had a lot in common.

Born just four days apart in 1994, Kaminsky and Reyes grew up only 25 miles away from each other in New Jersey, Kaminsky in Englewood Cliffs and Reyes in Elizabeth, but their paths had never crossed until they reported to the Cardinals’ instructional league program in Jupiter, Fla., in the fall of 2013.

They were both pitchers with tremendous potential. Kaminsky was the 28th overall pick in the draft that year, the first high school left-hander selected in the first round by the Cardinals since 1975. Reyes signed with the Cardinals as an international free agent seven months earlier, after moving in with his grandparents in the Dominican Republic.

A friendship quickly grew between the two, and the bond strengthened when they got together back in New Jersey in the off-season, then became teammates with the class A Peoria Chiefs for the 2014 season. They remained together in 2015 when each was promoted to Palm Beach.

Reyes said goodbye to his friend on July 24 of last year, when he was promoted again, to Double A Springfield. Kaminsky hoped he would be joining him soon.

Instead, Kaminsky was on a bus six days later on a road trip when he got the news the Cardinals had traded him to Cleveland for Brandon Moss. The business of baseball doesn’t play favorites when it comes to separating friends.

Being in different organizations, however, has not gotten in the way of the friendship between Reyes and Kaminsky. One of the first to hear the news that Reyes had been promoted to the Cardinals was Kaminsky, and as Reyes was making his first career start on Saturday night, Kaminsky – with his team in a two-hour rain delay – was paying close attention, getting updates on his phone.

“We talk all the time, almost every other day to be honest,” Kaminsky said in a telephone interview. “He’s a good player and a better person. He hasn’t changed one bit, and I don’t think he will.

“We talk baseball but the friendship is not built around baseball to be honest.”

It was just a few days after his friend was traded that Reyes was sitting on a bench outside the clubhouse in Springfield, talking about how much he had learned from Kaminsky.

“I learn from watching,” Reyes said that day. “I don’t think I’ve ever even told him this or he even knows, but Rob Kaminsky is definitely the number one guy I’ve studied. From day one in Peoria he just separated himself from everybody on the pitching staff, including me He was an unbelievable guy, his stuff is good and he knows it’s good.

“His focus is, ‘I’m going to beat every hitter that steps in the box’ and that’s something I kind of just picked up from him without even telling him. I just watched him work and the way he competes on the mound.”

Kaminsky’s progress was slowed this year because of a sore arm which put him on the disabled list in May, but he is now showing why the Indians wanted him in the deal for Moss. He has spent the entire year at Double A Akron, where he will celebrate his 22nd birthday on Friday.

He won his 10th game of the year on Monday night, allowing one run in 7 1/3 innings against Erie. He was 5-0 in August, with a 1.78 ERA, allowing only six runs in 30 1/3 innings. Kaminsky has not allowed more than two runs in 13 of his last 14 starts dating back to June 19.

“It’s been a learning year, it was the first taste I had of failure in April and May and then I got hurt, but now I’m getting back to pounding strike zone and am healthy again,” Kaminsky said.

Kaminsky credits part of his success to Reyes and the year and a half they spent together in the same rotation.

“I learned a lot from him,” Kaminsky said. “I think we looked up to each other and kind of fed off each other the last two years. It really was a little competition but we were rooting for each other. It’s awesome to see what he’s done.”

Seeing Reyes pitching in the major leagues has been a motivator for Kaminsky.

“I’ve got enough fire, but it’s definitely some eye-opening stuff seeing Alex do it,” Kaminsky said. “What he tells me about it (the majors) it seems like heaven on earth. I’m going to just keep working and hopefully play against him.”

Reyes, who will make his second career start on Friday night in Cincinnati, has no doubts that will happen.

“Rob’s a great friend,” he said. “He’s a great competitor. I wish him nothing but the best.”

The two friends had planned to organize some camps and clinics last fall in New Jersey but were not able to do that when Reyes was selected to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, then went to the Dominican Republic. Both said they hope that can happen one day, perhaps this winter.

Reyes is not the only player that Kaminsky follows on the Cardinals. Having been traded for Moss, he knows very well what kind of a season Moss is having in St. Louis.

“I get a few tweets here and there when he does something,” Kaminsky said. “People remind me about it but I don’t put a focus on that whatsoever. I wish the best for the Cardinals and Moss. Clint Frazier (a teammate in Akron) was friendly with Moss and they talked once in a while and he just got traded too (from the Indians to the Yankees). I know we will always be attached but I wish him the best.

“The trade was shocking for me. I know it happened for a reason. I’m happy to be here. I learned a lot from the Cardinals and I’m learning over here. It’s a good position to be in.”

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains