"It happened two weeks after I signed, and it was a big setback," Villarreal said. "It's always hard to have a year of rehab, but coming back was definitely worth it, especially now."
On Sept. 4, the Reds called up the 24-year-old Villarreal for the first time from Triple-A Louisville. He made his big league debut out of the bullpen the following day and threw a perfect inning with one strikeout. His parents, Hope and Wally, and an aunt were able to fly into Cincinnati from Dallas in time for the big moment.
"It's always nice to see what it's like up here, and it gives you motivation for next year," Villarreal said. "I will take it into the offseason, work harder and make sure I have a chance to make the team next year."
Villarreal posted a combined 4-14 record and 4.36 ERA with Louisville and Double-A Pensacola this season. He walked 38 and struck out 107 over 148 2/3 innings, however.
"I felt like I had a good year. The record didn't show it," Villarreal said. "I had to pitch and get through some tough situations down there. I know it's different down there than up here. I felt like I learned a lot down there and had a productive year overall."