After Robert Stephenson gave up 10 hits, 6 earned runs, and a grand slam he only got partial credit for on Monday against the Toronto Blue Jays - and did so again as a reliever, not a starter - the questions about his future began flying. You asked them. We asked them. The Cincinnati Reds asked them, too, and it seems they’ve found the answer for the time being:
Robert Stephenson’s going to AAA to work on just about everything.
#Reds option Robert Stephenson to Louisville, call up RHP Jackson Stephens— C. Trent Rosecrans (@ctrent) May 30, 2017
As The Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans also broke, Jackson Stephens will get the call-up to the big leagues in Stephenson’s stead, and will make his MLB debut if and when called upon. Stephens, 23, had a rock solid 2016 with AA Pensacola, posting a 3.33 ERA in 151.1 IP along with a decent 7.8 K/9, but so far his 2017 in AAA Louisville hasn’t been so kind. Through 51.1 IP, he owns a 5.79 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, and a 7.0 K/9, exclusively as a starting pitcher.
More importantly for this particular transaction: Stephens was already on the 40-man roster, so no additional roster shuffling was required. And in all likelihood, Stephens might just be a temporary placeholder until Tony Cingrani’s rehab stint ends in the coming days, though with Stephenson gone and Jake Buchanan fresh off throwing 61 pitches last night, Stephens could be the first long-man called upon if another Cincinnati starter gets rocked early and often.
As for Stephenson, it’s the latest chapter in the story of the former top prospect in the system. It’s also the latest in a long line of failures from Cincinnati rookie pitchers this year, as he’ll head back to AAA in a similar path to those traveled by Rookie Davis, Cody Reed, and Sal Romano. Hopefully, he and his still talented right arm can rekindle the kind of tantalizing power that made him a top prospect and former 1st round draftee in the first place, since if he can, there’s still a clear need for starting pitchers at the big league level with the Reds.
Until then, the Cincinnati staff will continue to lick its wounds and hope the offense can keep them above water.