Robert Stephenson has made two starts for the Cincinnati Reds this season, won both of them and found out shortly after each one that he was being sent back to Triple-A Louisville.
Reds manager Bryan Price explained why Wednesday morning, a few hours after Stephenson held the Rockies to one run on three hits in seven innings Tuesday night in a 4-3 Cincinnati victory.
“Coming into this year our goal was for him to increase his overall strike percentage, increase his ability to command the zone with his breaking ball and changeup and improve his fastball command,” Price said. “I don’t want to be critical of his game yesterday because he pitched beautifully, but he does have areas of his game to work on.”
The other issue, Price said, is that with injured starters Homer Bailey, Tony DeSclafani, John Lamb and Michael Lorenzen progressing with their rehab, there may not be room in the rotation.
“We’re going to have guys coming off the (disabled list) here pretty soon,” Price said. “I think it’s going to be more challenging for a guy like Robert to stay in this rotation long term at this point in time in the season. I’d rather have him pitching regularly in Triple-A.”
Hayes happy: The Reds called up 28-year-old rookie right-handed reliever Drew Hayes to replace Stephenson on the 25-man roster.
“I feel good. I’m excited,” Hayes said. “I’m thankful for the Reds for the opportunity to be here and to everybody who helped me along the way.”
Hayes had one of the best springs on the Reds staff, posting a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings with two saves, striking out 14 and walking four.
“If spring training was simply a blank canvas, he would have painted his way on to the ballclub,” Price said of Hayes, the team’s 11th round pick in 2010. “But it wasn’t totally open tryouts. There’s certain guys that are on the roster and certain guys that are going to get first crack. He was disappointed when he didn’t make the club. I’m really excited for Drew. He’s come up through the organization, and he’s earned his right to be here.”
To make room for Hayes on the 40-man roster, the Reds designated right-handed pitcher Keyvius Sampson for assignment.
Hoover hope: Price said he wanted to sleep on any decision he might make about the closer role after J.J. Hoover struggled again Tuesday, giving up a two-run home run to Mark Reynolds in the ninth before finishing off the 4-3 victory.
Wednesday morning, Price still wasn’t ready to announce anything.
“I give it a lot of thought all the time as you can imagine,” Price said. “I probably won’t use him (Wednesday) anyway because he’s pitched back to back and three out of four, so it gives me a little more time to contemplate what I want to do.”
“I would really love him to be the closer,” Price continued. “But I do need him to perform at a more consistent level. I’d like him to be a little bit sharper. His pitch efficiency and command haven’t been great, and he has a track record of being really good. He does need to get back on the beam as far as commanding inside the zone, staying ahead in the count and executing better pitches.”