Stephenson gets another chance in Reds rotation

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Who is Robert Stephenson? Seven facts about Reds pitcher

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

2011 first-round pick improved his control in Louisville

Robert Stephenson looked like a big-league pitcher to Cincinati Reds manager Bryan Price in May. The 2011 first-round pick at last seemed to be making progress toward living up to his potential.

Six days later, on May 30, the Reds optioned Stephenson to Triple-A Louisville. That move followed a two-inning relief appearance in which he allowed six earned runs on 10 hits.

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Stephenson, 24, remained in the minors until Friday when he returned to Great American Ball Park. He will start a 7:10 p.m. Saturday game against the Miami Marlins.

“I feel really good about the progress I’ve made the last couple months,” Stephenson said. “I feel I’ve maybe made more progress these months than I have in the last few years as far as my command and control in the zone. I wanted to go down there and throw strikes. I feel I’ve done a really good job of that lately.”

Stephenson made his big-league debut in 2016, posting a 6.08 ERA in eight starts. This season, the Reds put him in the bullpen. He had an 8.03 ERA in 13 relief appearances. He returned to the starting rotation in Louisville and was 1-2 with a 3.79 ERA in seven starts. He also made one relief appearance.

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Stephenson walked 5.8 batters per nine innings with the Reds. In Triple-A, he walked 2.9 per nine innings.

“He’s been a performer down there,” Price said. “He’s done what we asked, and that’s pound the zone. We also asked him to really work on his slider, which he has done. He’s thrown it very effectively.”

If he shows any improvement, Stephenson should get an extended chance in the second half. The last-place Reds (40-55) don’t have anything to lose with a starting rotation that sports the worst ERA in baseball (6.19).

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Other young pitchers in Louisville could get another look. Cody Reed is 3-5 with a 3.61 ERA in 13 starts. Amir Garett has continued to struggle with the Bats. He’s 1-1 with a 5.76 ERA in five starts. Tyler Mahle, who started the season in Double-A, is 2-3 with a 3.00 ERA in five starts.

“We have to learn about these guys,” Price said. “We’ve had a rough start to the second half. We have a lot of questions to answer about our club, in particular with our pitching and where we’re going. Those questions will go unanswered if we don’t give some of these young guys an opportunity to pitch.

“We certainly want to see improvement with each opportunity, to see a better presence and more confident and the ability to make better pitches. So I’m looking forward to seeing Robert pitch.”


SATURDAY’S GAME

Marlins at Reds, 7:10 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410

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