Stephenson might get sent down to Triple-A Louisville later this season to get stretched out as a starter, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon speculates. This doesn't appear to be imminent, and in fact Sheldon's comment was spurred by a reader question. But this isn't a surprise, given Stephenson's draft pedigree and usage in the minors. He's coming off of a rough relief outing in Milwaukee, having given up five runs (four earned) over two-thirds of an inning Tuesday.
Stephenson pitched three innings in relief of Brandon Finnegan on Saturday, allowing just one run on an Eric Thames homer. He struck out five, walked one and allowed three hits. Stephenson came up big after Finnegan pitched just one inning Saturday. Right now there's no talk of moving Stephenson back to the rotation after Finnegan hit the disabled list, but Stephenson had two good outings this week after a bumpy debut. The Reds would prefer for him to continue his development in this fashion if possible.
Stephenson made his 2017 debut Saturday against the Cardinals and allowed four runs on a whopping six walks (one intentional) over 1.2 innings. Reds manager Bryan Price told the Cincinnati Enquirer that Stephenson's control problems were due to a return of bad habits with his delivery. About the only good that came out of Stephenson's outing was that four outs were recorded via strikeouts, indicating that he has good stuff. But he threw 33 balls as opposed to 26 strikes. The Reds will continue to keep him in low-leverage situations until he can considerably improve his command.
Stephenson has made the Reds' Opening Day roster as a reliever, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Despite a rough spring performance in which he posted a 5.63 ERA over 16 innings pitched, the Reds saw enough in Stephenson to add him to the 25-man roster. The 24-year-old will likely operate in a low-leverage relief role with the opportunity to work his way into the rotation as the season progresses.
Stephenson gave up four runs on six hits and two walks over four-plus innings in his final spring training outing of the year Saturday against the Cubs, striking out three. The game was played in Las Vegas, a notorious hitters' park where the wind was blowing out to right field, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Stephenson finishes spring training with a 5.63 ERA and 1.44 WHIP over 16 innings in major league spring training games. The overall stats have to be just a small part of the decision-making process for the Reds, given the small sample. But Amir Garrett and Cody Reed had better springs, and arguably Sal Romano's spring training performance could also persuade the Reds to find a spot for him. Part of their process will have to be based on whether they believe Bronson Arroyo can handle the rigors of major league competition again.
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