Robert Stephenson came on to relieve Lisalverto Bonilla from his painstaking start last night in Toronto, something Bob hadn’t done at all in some eight days. His second pitch was a meatball to Troy Tulowitzki, and the Blue Jays shortstop promptly kaboodled it over the left field wall for a grand slam.
It was not good. The entire scenario is not good. The production has been every bit as bad as it has been few and far between, a scenario that doesn’t seem to be helping either player or team. For the Cincinnati Reds, the time has certainly come to figure out what to do with their former top prospect, and The Enquirer’s Zach Buchanan is right to wonder if the time for sending him back to AAA has come.
Stephenson’s bloated 8.03 ERA is an issue, to be sure, but it stands as less of concern in the greater scheme than what the team really wants to do with the kid. He’s not starting anymore for the time being, but as a reliever he’s been solely tasked as being a multi-inning mop-up man, something that’s more self-serving for a godawful rotation than it is for his future as a pitcher. If he’s going to be a reliever, use him as a reliever, not as cleanup on aisle 5 when Bonilla or Bronson Arroyo or whichever scrap-heap starter starting instead of him slips on spilled creamer and throws their Funyuns everywhere.
Doug Gray looked into Stephenson’s usage in a particularly useful way today, too, highlighting the difference in his performances on semi-regular rest versus when he’s been on the shelf for more than 5 days at a time. Predictably, albeit in a small sample, the kid does better when he’s actually being used frequently.
One way or another, it seems that the way Bob Steve has been used this year hasn’t worked for anyone. His big league performance certainly hasn’t helped an otherwise proficient bullpen. He’s not starting, for some reason, despite a starting rotation who is putting new words in the definition of blech. And for two full months now, he hasn’t been working on his craft on a regular basis at AAA, which sure as hell doesn’t let him work on the issues plaguing him now.
In related news, Buchanan’s colleague C. Trent Rosecrans noted after Bonilla’s brutal outing last night that there are still no reinforcements coming for the beleaguered rotation. Not soon, at least. The 60-day DL triumvirate of would-be starters are still weeks away, at best, and Amir Garrett still hasn’t thrown since hitting the DL with his hip issue. The AAA staff is a wasteland of aren’t-yets and never-weres, and Bryan Price seems unwilling to reach as deep as the stellar AA rotation for help from the promising likes of Luis Castillo or Tyler Mahle until they crack some AAA heads at some point.
(Personally, I’m interested to hear why Deck McGuire hasn’t gotten a similar shot as Bonilla, Asher Wojciechowski, or Jake Buchanan. He’s only in AA now, but he’s also 27, a former 1st round pick, and has 289.1 innings of AAA experience under his belt. He might be smoke and mirrors at this point of his career, but with a 2.76 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 9.2 K/9 in 58.2 innings for Pensacola this year, he’s at the top of my personal “why the hell not” list at the moment.)
In non-pitching-disaster news, Joey Votto spoke with FanGraphs’ Travis Sawchik about the continued proliferation of fly-ball - err, air-ball - hitting in today’s game, and how it might have more staying power than he once thought. Votto’s certainly buying-in now, as Sawchik notes, in part as a direct response to teams shifting so extensively now. It makes me wonder...if teams stopped shifting, would players still keep this newfangled swing for the fences mentality if singles up the middle and through the gaps in the standard infield were readily available again? Baseball chess, man.
Speaking of Votto, he picked up his 6th Tip O’Neill Award from the Canadian Baseball HoF yesterday while back in Toronto. When in Rome, whatnot.
Finally, BeeK spoke with the crew at Bluebird Banter about the current Reds/Jays series, and you can read that Q&A here.