Stephenson states case for big leagues

Robert_StephensonLOU_uos38dhm_m1mdhu2l

Robert Stephenson Reds Triple AAA

Training: Gamespeed’s  Off Season Pitching Conditioning since 2009.

Reds top pitching prospect fans 10 over eight scoreless innings

Watching his teammates get promoted to the big leagues, Robert Stephenson can’t help but think about his own callup. And with his latest gem, he brought that call one step closer.

The Reds’ second-ranked prospect tossed eight three-hit innings and struck out 10 on Tuesday night, pitching Triple-A Louisville to a 3-1 victory over Charlotte at Louisville Slugger Field.

“You see guys go up every other day from here. I think I’ve seen four or five different guys go up to the big leagues and it puts it in perspective that you’re so close to there. So it’s in the back of your mind and it just keeps driving you forward,” he said. “It’s so close and it’s right in front of you that if you work hard enough, you can get there.

“I think very soon I will be

[ready to get there].”

Stephenson’s hard work was apparent early as he worked in and out of trouble. Charlotte had a runner on second with one out in each of the first three innings, but MLB.com’s No. 46 overall prospect kept the Knights off the scoreboard. He retired 10 straight batters from the third to the sixth as he settled into a groove.

“Just the fact that I knew there was a runner on, I don’t want him to score, so I do everything I can to get those guys out to make sure he doesn’t score, especially in a tight ballgame,” he said. “It seems like as the game goes on, I always feel stronger and am able to throw more strikes. I don’t really know how to describe it, I just feel like I get in a good groove in the later innings.”

The 22-year-old right-hander issued one walk while reaching double-digit strikeouts for the first time at the Triple-A level. He threw 105 pitches in matching the longest outing of his career.

“I had a couple starts before this where I thought they were good games, but it wasn’t as ideal as I’d like them to be, and I was a lot more happy tonight that I was able to go out and throw eight innings because it’s my goal to go deeper into games,” Stephenson said. “I threw a lot of off-speed pitches for strikes tonight. There was a couple innings where I was able to get some really quick outs and obviously had a lot of help from my teammates behind me.”

 

Stephenson’s best start of the season came two days after the Reds dealt veteran right-hander Johnny Cueto to the Royals for Minor League left-handers Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed.

“Everyone’s obviously going to pay attention because it does affect you, as far as on the big league and the Triple-A levels because we got a couple of the guys here today. But it’s not something you can really put too much thought into just because you’re not the one making decisions,” Stephenson said. “As long as I can keep pitching the way I’m pitching right now, then I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for me at all.”

Stephenson has worked with Bats pitching coach Ted Power on limiting walks and damage in big innings and controlling the running game. It’s paid off as the California native has posted scoreless outings in three of his last four starts.

“His last two starts have been very good quality and he is seeming to get into a really good rhythm, not only from the windup but the stretch, too. There is still things in his game he is improving on, but tonight he realty got into a good rhythm and his delivery was in sync,” Power said. “I think the kid has a pretty good head on his shoulders and he’s just getting his work in, and whatever happens will happen.”

Collin Balester closed out the game by working around a run on three hits in the ninth.

Charlotte starter Erik Johnson dueled Stephenson through six innings, allowing an unearned run on five hits and three walks with two strikeouts.

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
2016-12-09T00:02:42+00:00