Last night, I was in attendance for Robert Stephenson’s start in Louisville. In the first inning, Stephenson hit Edwin Espinal in the face, breaking his jaw. He also hit the first batter of the second inning and things got very tense for a while. And yet, he went 6 innings on 88 pitches, allowing 1 run. He retired the last 11 batters he faced. Except for the pitch count, it was vintage Stephenson. Control issues aplenty, but otherwise unhittable (he did not allow a hit after the first).

I talked to Bats manager Dick Schofield after the game and asked about the situation that occurred in the game and Stephenson’s pitching in general. “I think he gets so amped up trying to throw 100 mph when he [should] throw 92-95. When he starts settling in and wears down a little bit, then the arm works better for him.” This is, you will note, the narrative we’ve had with Stephenson for a couple of years now.

I also asked about Nick Senzel, but Schofield had nothing to say other than that he was getting treatment but with no ETA. Trent Rosecrans had a story at The Athletic that indicated that Senzel was improving, but not quite there yet.

Also, it has not yet been determined when Brandon Finnegan will have his first start for the Bats.

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.

Join the conversation! 19 Comments

  1. Still think that Bob Steve will become a very good pitcher for someone else. It’s going to take getting traded or released to get it through his head that he needs to change his approach in order to succeed.

    Reply
    • I agree.I don’t know anything about him at all.Head case I have heard and he was punished last year along with Reed by sending him to the pen then down and then up.My opinion is that I would be a head case too.All I ever heard was he needed to throw strikes and well so does every pitcher.Mahle walked 4 in his first big league start and did the same thing the other night.Its what young guys do and what they always have done and always will do.Someone wrote the other night his stats from his starts at the end of last year looked comparable to Romano’s yet he is back in the minors.Bob’s stuff as you have said Jason is at times unhittable and if it was me the first starter that faltered,oh that just happened with Finny,he would get the call to start.Way way too much talent to be in Louisville.

      Reply
      • Bob has been walking 4.5 batters/9 since 2014. Well before he was going up and and down. Mahle has had a couple of hiccup games in the majors, but never walked more than 2.52 batters/9 at any stop in the minors. The comparison is not apt.

        Players in the minors don’t have the ability to hit Bob’s stuff, but his lack of control simply won’t play in the majors. He’s walked 25 in 36.2 innings in the minors this year. That’s not gonna get it done.

        Reply
        • But he did get it done at the end of last season. I believe Clint Hurdle paid him a tremendous compliment by saying they hadn’t faced that good a slider all season.

          Reply
        • Jason,I compared Bob to Mahle because Mahle had never walked any more then 4 batters in any game in the minors prior to his first start.My point was young guys walk people.I could have researched as you did and used data to compare to prove my point next time.I will probably start with Nolan Ryan and maybe go to Randy Johnson just to see how they looked the first few years.You said players in the minors don’t have the ability to hit him but it won’t play in the majors.What then do we do with him?Give up on him?Let him stay at Louisville?How about we DFA and see how many teams jump all over that.

          Reply
        • I agree, Jason. I have seen both Stephenson and Mahle pitch several games at Pensacola. I even sat by Stephenson for several innings at a game when he was charting pitches behind home plate. He is a very nice young man, but his control is much worse than Mahle’s. Mahle was the best pitcher I have seen come through Pensacola and it is not even close.

          Reply
    • Perhaps we can trade him for another head case like PInt out of Colorado.
      Not sure they are ready to trade him yet.

      Reply
  2. Good stuff Jason. And I love that RLN has media access in Louisville. Thanks for these updates.

    Reply
  3. Hmmm…

    The one point that got my attention from Danny Darwin after he took over the reins as interim pitching coach was his intention to pitch inside.

    Obviously, no one intends (hopefully) to go head hunting or break jaws or injure players, but pitching inside is necessary. After Stephenson demonstrated that he was staking claim to the inside portion of the plate, he dominated the game. I was following the game via audio and gameday, but didn’t see the game, so determining cause and effect are somewhat nebulous. For whatever reason, after the 1st inning (23 pitches) Stephenson was dominant and efficient (65 pitches over 5 innings).

    Reply
    • That’s not what happened. What actually happened was he had no control for the first several innings at all. In the first three innings, he had 3 walks and 2 hit batters. There was no staking claim. There was a pitcher who had no idea where it was going for the first few innings and then calmed down.

      Also, if you don’t have control, I will assert that you shouldn’t pitch inside. It’s too dangerous. I could hear the ball make contact with Espinal’s face all the way up in the press box.

      Reply
      • Stephenson is too erratic.
        Reed is too erratic. They’ve never been able to sustain performance. Perhaps they would be better in the bullpen. Simplify their role and take the pressure off. Execute 2 pitches well for 4-6 batters every 2-3 days.

        Castillo and Mahle have poise and a sense of calm. Stuff is important but make up and execution and consistency are part of being a good pitcher as well.

        Reply
        • Fully agree. If the Reds can make Stephenson and Reed part of a package for a stud prospect or good SP with a few years of team control, DO IT. I know it would probably take another solid prospect or current player along with those two, but another team may have a clueless GM or a scout whispering “we can fix that guy, go get him”, etc.

          I hope they can move both of them as I don’t much care for either of them. As you said, we won’t see consistency or control any time soon. If they DO get it, it will be after team control is evaporated and then they’ll be costly if they do get it.

          Reply
  4. Stephenson skates on the edge of disaster. His stuff, whiff rate and K rate allow him to get away with allowing “too many” BB. This appears to be who he is prior, now and later.

    His numbers over the last third of the MLB season in 2017 suggest he probably could also skate well enough in MLB to be a middle to lower rotation guy. The only way to find out for sure about him is to hand him the ball every 5th day in MLB and see what happens,

    I’m not sure the Reds have the luxury of walking away from such a guy without finding out unless they are going to buy a couple of starters in the coming off seasons.

    Reply
  5. I remember how he finished out last season. I still think Robert and Amir should be in the reds rotation. At least Amir is not being wasted in the pen as Robert and Cody were last year

    Reply
  6. Maybe Bob just needs glasses……?

    Reply
  7. Patience.
    BobSteve & CReed have ML stuff. You can’t teach that!
    Quality reps plus instruction = future success.

    I don’t know the Lville pitching coach – but I hope he’s setting goals & mentoring these two young guys.

    Reply
  8. How long is it supposed to take for Stephenson? He’s been in the minors since 2012 and in AAA since 2015. So far this year, his xFIP is 4.82, and over his 32 total games in the majors (2015 and 2016), his xFIP hasn’t gotten below 5.00. And worse, his BB/9 so far this year is going in the wrong direction. The Reds certainly don’t need more of that kind of pitcher. I understand that some players take longer to develop. Then again, some players never really make it. At the rate he’s going, it might be more likely that the Reds trade him to some team that is rebuilding rather than seeing him develop into a Reds starter.

    Reply
    • I certainly understand your question and sense of urgency.

      I would argue the first half of 2017 not only did not allow Stephenson & Reed to develop, it also set them back. They pitched sparingly, were called upon in difficult situations for which they were not prepared. It seems they were told “get the ball over the plate… or else.” You can’t take power pitchers with control issues and relegate them to irregular use in the bullpen – they need steady work. A control pitcher like Mahle could handle the more irregular workload – but not a developing power pitcher that struggles with control. Then we combine that with DeShields ranting, Price demoting, followed by an “open tryout” in Spring Training where four of five starting spots were basically predetermined.

      I’m not proposing coddling them. These men need challenging goals. Whatever the metrics are, they must be time-dependent so they understand the urgency (developing another pitch, xFIP improvement, BB/9 improvement, mechanics consistency, film study time, improving pick-off moves, improving spot/situational pitching, 1st inning effectiveness, and so forth).

      In my outside view, the pitching development situation has been badly managed and those two have suffered the most. I get it, not every prospect “makes it”. But ML quality stuff is rare and there’s no reason for the Reds not to give these guys a solid year at Louisville (or Cincy if needed) to figure it out. After 2018, the goals can be re-set for the Winter and 2019.

      Urban Meyer has created a culture where everything is measured and designed to be a competition. The Reds pitching culture should be designed the same way.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

About Jason Linden

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.

Category

Minors

Tags

, ,