Stephenson was optioned to Triple-A Louisville on Thursday, C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic Cincinnati reports.
Stephenson opened spring training with a good shot to win one of the final spots in the Reds' rotation, however his lackluster spring performance prompted Cincinnati to send him back to the minors for some more seasoning instead. The former first-round pick, who finished the 2017 season with a 2.50 ERA and 1.27 WHIP across his final 50.1 innings, should be back with the Reds at some point in 2018.
Stephenson allowed two runs over 3.2 innings against the Cubs on Monday night, but as the Dayton Daily News's Hal McCoy reports, he was very lucky to escape with two runs allowed in the first two innings. The Cubs lined into two double plays in the first two innings and ran into another out in that span. Stephenson allowed five hits, two walks, committed a balk and threw a wild pitch.
Making matters worse, Stephenson had to abandon his fastball in the third inning, throwing only sliders and change-ups. Stephenson opened spring training with a decent chance to win an open rotation spot, but he's appeared to drop behind at least Sal Romano and Tyler Mahle, and maybe also Amir Garrett.
Stephenson made it through only two innings in Wednesday's spring training start against the Diamondbacks, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks. He could not command his breaking pitches, MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince reports. He threw over 30 pitches in the first inning, going to three-ball counts on each of the first five hitters.
There are opportunities to be had in the Reds' rotation, but Stephenson has done very little to claim them. "It's a challenge, for sure," said Stephenson, who has a 9.00 ERA through eight innings. "I definitely want to go out there and prove that I belong in that rotation. And I feel that when I'm pitching the way I should, I definitely do. But the way I have lately, I'm not very happy with it."
Stephenson had his best outing of the spring Thursday against the Rockies, throwing three scoreless innings while allowing one hit and no walks, striking out three. He remains in the starting rotation picture for the Reds, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports.
Stephenson did his work mostly against minor leaguers, coming into the game in the sixth inning, but this was nonetheless an encouraging outing. "He was really good, especially because he threw a lot more fastballs," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He was more acute with the location of his fastball. That was a good thing to see. He had a good slider and split [fingered fastball], but his fastball command did a good job."
Stephenson struggled against the Cubs on Saturday, allowing two earned runs on four hits and three walks over 1.2 innings, continuing to miss with his fastball, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports. "He just had a lot of misses and elevated fastballs," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He just really hasn't gotten into his groove yet. He'll bounce back, I'm sure. He's got good stuff, and he's a better pitch now than he was at this point last year."
While Price is expressing confidence that Stephenson will bounce back, he had similar struggles last season and is off to a slow start compared to Amir Garrett, Tyler Mahle and Sal Romano.
|10/1/2017 vs Chicago|
|Last 7 Games|
|Complete Game Log|
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|More Pitching Stats|
|Minor League Pitching Stats|
|2013||AA-Pensacola Blue Wahoo||0||2||4.86||4||4||0||0||0||16.2||17||10||9||2||0||13||18|
|2014||AA-Pensacola Blue Wahoo||7||10||4.74||27||26||0||0||0||136.2||114||81||72||18||5||74||140|
|2015||AA-Pensacola Blue Wahoo||4||7||3.68||14||14||1||0||0||78.1||53||36||32||8||4||43||89|