Martinez, Ca – Gamespeeds Robert Stephenson (Alhambra HS) got his second major league start this year and proved again he’s ready for the show. Great job Robert.
Story appeared in Cincinnati.com 04/19/2016.
For the second time this year, Robert Stephenson was called up for a spot start for the Reds and won. For the second time this year, Stephenson will immediately return to Triple-A Louisville, despite his efforts.
“He would pitch again if (Alfredo) Simon wasn’t able to go, but at this point in time he’s had two major league starts and they’ve been good. I still feel like he has some things he can improve upon,” Reds manager Bryan Price said following the Reds’ 4-3 victory over the Rockies. “If the need was here, I’d be happy to have him pitch here, but at this moment the need is not. We do feel he has a little ways to go as far as his development. He’ll return to Triple-A unless we have an injury and continue to work on the areas he needs to focus on.”
Stephenson started Tuesday after Simon told the team he was feeling some soreness in his shoulder. Stephenson could be recalled earlier than the requisite 10 days if Simon — or any other Reds pitcher — were to go on the disabled list.
The rookie became the first Reds pitcher to finish seven innings this year, but even going seven left the Reds’ beleaguered bullpen to get the final six outs.
The Enquirer’s Zach Buchanan wraps up the Reds’ win Tuesday against the Rockies at GABP. The Enquirer
Caleb Cotham and Tony Cingrani took care of four of those outs before closer J.J. Hoover came in for the final two outs with a three-run lead. Hoover surrendered a two-run home run, but was able to get the last out with the lead intact.
If the last outs of the game are becoming a nightmare for Price, what they’ve gotten out of Stephenson in two starts is a blissful dream. The 23-year-old started the third game of the season because of the accumulated injuries to Reds starters. Stephenson picked up the victory in a five-inning start against the Phillies, giving up four runs (three earned) on six hits with two walks.
“I found out last night, so I was able to have enough time to get my stuff together and come up here in the morning,” Stephenson said. “I had plenty of time. I just took it like a regular start.”
Instead of facing the Columbus Clippers, Stephenson got a chance to face the likes of Carlos Gonzalez and Trevor Story. Those two finished a combined 0-for-6 against Stephenson, and none of the top five in the lineup reached base against him.
“He had to make some pitches, I think he got eight ground balls, three strikeouts, the rest were fly balls. He controlled the running game well, fielded his position well and did the things he needs to do to be successful here,” Price said. “I’m sure he built confidence. It’s a really good offensive ballclub there with the Rockies and he was able to control their lineup with really heavy left-handed hitters with some power and he did a really nice job.”
Stephenson’s average fastball was one full mile per hour faster on Tuesday than in his first start, according to BrooksBaseball.net, which had his four-seam fastball averaging 92.9 mph in his first start and 93.9 mph on Tuesday. He also had a higher maximum (96.6 on Tuesday), and one pitch in the seventh inning showed 95 mph on the scoreboard.
“The first time out there – the same thing today, too – I was trying to go out there and throw strikes,” Stephenson said. “Today was a little warmer weather and my arm did feel pretty good. I let it go a little bit more today.”
Stephenson cruised through the first inning, throwing just 12 pitches to retire the Rockies in order. He seemed to be doing the same in the second until Reynolds doubled with two outs. Stephenson then balked, sending Reynolds to third before Ben Paulsen hit a broken-bat single to right, scoring the game’s first run.
After Tony Wolters swung at Stephenson’s first pitch, the Reds’ rookie threw four straight balls to bring up pitcher Jorge De La Rosa. Stephenson’s first pitch to his opposite was a ball, earning a trip to the mound from pitching coach Mark Riggins.
Riggins went out to the mound, put his arm around Stephenson and said something. Whatever happened there, Stephenson’s next pitch was a strike and then he got De La Rosa to ground out, ending the inning.
“He slowed me down and told me to go right after the guys,” Stephenson said of Riggins’ visit. “There was no reason I couldn’t get them out by going right after them.”
Stephenson then retired the next six batters he faced before a leadoff double by Paulsen to start the fifth. Stephenson retired the seven he faced before walking Reynolds with an out in the seventh. He then struck out Paulsen and got Wolters to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the inning, and his night. Stephenson threw a total of 105 pitches, 60 for strikes. Stephenson reached 95 on the stadium radar gun in both the first and seventh innings.
The Reds gave Stephenson a 4-1 lead in the second when they used five hits, five steals and a hit batter to score four against Rockies starter De La Rosa, who wouldn’t retire a batter in the third inning before he was taken out of the game.
With the win, Stephenson became the first Reds pitcher since Larry Luebbers in 1993 to win his first two big-league starts. Even with the knowledge that he was likely returning to Louisville after Tuesday’s game, Stephenson said he felt better in his second outing than his first.
“It just eased the nerves a little bit, being able to go out there knowing I’ve been here before,” he said. “I feel like I belong here. I just had a lot more confidence being able to go out there.”