Reds’ Robert Stephenson pitching better in May

Robert Stephenson remains an option for the Cincinnati Reds if they decide to go a different way with their starting rotation.

With Bronson Arroyo (3-4, 6.75 ERA), Tim Adleman (2-2, 6.19) and Lisalverto Bonilla (0-2, 6.38) struggling, the Reds have the worst rotation in baseball. The starters’ 5.81 ERA is more than two points higher than the 3.32 ERA of Reds relievers.

Stephenson has a 6.35 ERA in 12 relief appearances, but he has been much better in his last five appearances, allowing two earned runs in 9 2/3 innings.

“I like what he’s doing,” manager Bryan Price said Tuesday. “He had that six-walk game in St. Louis. Since then — he’s given up some runs — but he’s been so much better. His command has been better. He has been showing the slider every now and again. He’s on the plate with his pitches. He just looks more comfortable. He looks like a big leaguer out there now.”

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Should the Reds decide to return Stephenson to a starting role, he would have to go back to Triple-A Louisville to build innings in preparation for that change. Price doesn’t look forward to losing an arm in the bullpen if that happens, but it’s an option. The Reds took a similar approach with Cody Reed, who is 1-2 with a 4.61 ERA in three starts since being optioned to Louisville.

“We need them to get comfortable up here playing in the big-league arena,” Price said, “and then if we decide that we want to send them down to start and get stretched out, we can anticipate a more mentally-prepared and more mature pitcher when they get back because they’ve had some success here, albeit in lesser exposure as a reliever.”

Finnegan update: Brandon Finnegan threw 21 pitches in a bullpen session Tuesday. He has been on the disabled list with a shoulder injury since April 16.

“I came out healthy,” Finnegan said. “That’s all that matters. It was definitely a big step forward for me. I could tell how I actually felt. Playing catch only tells you so much. Throwing off the mound is a huge difference.”

Streaks alive: Reds reliever Raisel Iglesias pitched a scoreless ninth inning Monday in a 5-1 victory. He has not allowed a run in his last 11 appearances (12 1/3 innings). That ties the longest scoreless streak of his career.

Second baseman Jose Peraza extended his hitting streak to nine games Monday, tying his career high. Hit hit .333 during the stretch, raising his average to .253.

Attendance update: The Reds averaged 21,502 fans in their first 26 home games. That's 527 fewer per game compared to last season at the same point.

Looking ahead: The Ohio Cup heads north for two 6:10 p.m. games at Progressive Field. Bonilla starts against Trevor Bauer (4-4, 6.65) on Wednesday. Adleman starts against Mike Clevinger (2-1, 1.56) on Thursday.

The Reds are 19-32 all time in Cleveland. They have lost five straight games at Progressive Field.

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