The Reds play game two of a four-game road set against the Washington Nationals today at 1:05 Eastern time at Nationals Park. It’s the first half of a day-night doubleheader prompted by Friday night’s rainout. The Reds hope to break a three-game losing streak that has come on the heels of three straight wins against the first-place Phillies. Speaking of losing streaks, the Reds have lost 12 straight to the Nats and 14 of the last 15 dating back to the 2016 season. (CORRECTION: The Reds had lost eight straight and 13 of 15 dating back to 2016.)
Meanwhile at Class AAA Louisville, a very interesting story is unfolding.
Robert Stephenson had some kind of night! The right-hander struck out a season-best 13 and helped the Bats to a 4-0 win.
Ã¢â‚¬â€ Louisville Bats (@LouisvilleBats) August 4, 2018
Robert StephensonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s last 5 starts:
1.09 ERA (4 ER in 33.0 IP), 0.73 WHIP, .102 BAA with 13 walks & 38 strikeouts. https://t.co/KrjaCLxWXB
Ã¢â‚¬â€ Alex Mayer (@alexmayer34) August 4, 2018
Do you remember how Robert Stephenson struggled in the bullpen with the Reds last year at the start and was then sent back to the minors? Here’s what he’s done ever since that day in late May 2017: pic.twitter.com/KSQTGd0ixB
Ã¢â‚¬â€ Doug Gray (@dougdirt24) August 4, 2018
Stephenson has been touted as a top pitching prospect for literally years after being selected in the first round in 2011. Once he reached Louisville, he was generally mediocre, due primarily to a lack of control. When he got his chances with the big-league team he also struggled mightily, with the exception of an impressive stretch of starts late last year.
He was criticized via the media by the Louisville manager in 2016:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This is what weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been going through with this kid for the last three or four years,Ã¢â‚¬Â DeShields said, referring to StephensonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s control issues. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Until he makes an adjustment, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to continue. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not going to get better. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s on him. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been told what he needs to do and what he needs to work on by numerous coaches and staff members. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s up to him to make those adjustments. If I was him, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be embarrassed.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Maybe, as they say, Stephenson has “figured it out.” I have always been an advocate of the idea that positions on the big league roster should be earned. Stephenson had a chance in spring training this year to earn a spot in the starting rotation, but didn’t take advantage of it. Sal Romano outperformed him and won the roster spot. But to Stephenson’s credit, he went to Louisville and instead of sulking, he did what he needed to do.
While Stephenson has been on a hot streak, so has one of his teammates who has also been disappointing to date in major league auditions. Since June 5, lefthander Cody Reed has pitched 64.2 innings while striking out 69 and walking only 14. In his last three starts, he has allowed three earned runs in 19.1 innings.
Many are wondering why one or both of these pitchers has not been promoted yet. Redleg Nation regular Shichi Cossack pointed this out in a comment yesterday:
Stephenson has 167 days of accumulated MLB service time. If Stephenson pitches at the MLB level at all during the 2018 season, he will exceed 1.0 years of service time, leaving just 5 seasons of team control after the 2018 season, making him a FA after the 2023 season. If Stephenson doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t pitch at the MLB level at all, including when rosters expand in September, then the Reds will maintain 6 seasons of team control after the 2018 season, making Stephenson a FA after the 2024 season. Stephenson will be out of options after the 2018 season and must stick on the 25-man roster or be lost on waivers. Interestingly, Cody Reed is in the same situation with 166 days of accumulated MLB service time.
Interesting indeed. However, it would be hard to imagine not seeing both Stephenson and Reed up with the big league team at some point this month or next. Their progress speaks to the benefit of patience, something the Reds have not been known for in developing pitchers. Luis Castillo was promoted from Class AA last year, skipping AAA altogether. I have always believed that promoting a minor league pitcher who has mediocre performance metrics in the minors and expecting him to pitch effectively in the majors is daft. If Stephenson and Reed continue their current performance trends in Louisville, it will be very interesting to see how that translates to the majors with the Reds. It would seem likely they would bring the confidence with them that perhaps was lacking before.
Like Mahle, DeSclafani is in the midst of a streak of subpar starts. In his last three starts, DeSclafani has pitched 12 innings and surrendered 12 earned runs. The streak almost identically mirrors MahleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in terms of when it started. Hopefully, DeSclafani can break the trend that Mahle continued in ThursdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game.
Gonzalez is having some struggles of his own. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lost five consecutive decisions, though that is primarily due to lack of run support from his teammates. He got the win in the second game of the year against the Reds, a 6-5 Nationals victory. This lefthander is a guy you can pretty much count on a quality start from each time out. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s another tough challenge for the Reds tonight.
After an off-day due to Friday’s rainout, all members of the pen should be ready when called upon this evening. The one exception is Keury Mella, who pitched 4.1 innings in relief Thursday night.
|SS Jose Peraza||RF Adam Eaton|
|LF Phillip Ervin||SS Trea Turner|
|1B Joey Votto||3B Anthony Rendon|
|3B Eugenio Suarez||CF Bryce Harper|
|RF Brandon Dixon||LF Juan Soto|
|C Curt Casali||2B Daniel Murphy|
|2B Dilson Herrera||1B Ryan Zimmerman|
|P Anthony DeSclafani||C Matt Wieters|
|CF Billy Hamilton||P Gio Gonzalez|
The only change in either team’s lineup from last night’s posted lineups is Herrera starting at second base.
News and Notes
Minor league review and update Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
Cincinnati #Reds Minor League Game Review: 8/3/18
Ã¢â‚¬â€ Doug Gray (@dougdirt24) August 4, 2018
Ã¢â‚¬â€ Andersen Pickard (@AndersenPickard) August 4, 2018
Hunter Greene suffered his UCL sprain in a bullpen throwing session, according to General Manager Nick Krall Ã¢â‚¬Â¦