New day, same old Robert Stephenson.
Since being called up from Triple-A Louisville two weeks ago Robert Stephenson has pitched in two games for a total of 5 and 2/3 innings. In those games Stephenson has an ERA of 7.94 and a total of 9 walks. Yes, you read that correctly…9 walks.
Stephenson has been with the organization since 2011 when he was drafted out of high school in the first round by the Reds. He has spent a considerable amount of time in the Reds minor league system and was recently pitching well in Triple-A before his latest call up.
The knock on Robert Stephenson is his control. It’s ALWAYS been his control. There have also been rumblings about his attitude and his willingness to improve upon and change his approach when it comes to his control. If you can recall back in August of 2016, Louisville manager Delino DeShields had this to say about Stephenson:
“This is what we’ve been going through with this kid for the last three or four years,” DeShields said, referring to Stephenson’s control issues. “Until he makes an adjustment, it’s going to continue. It’s not going to get better. It’s on him. He’s been told what he needs to do and what he needs to work on by numerous coaches and staff members. It’s up to him to make those adjustments. If I was him, I’d be embarrassed.”
Fast forward to Monday August 20th, 2018 and here we are – still talking about Robert Stephenson’s control and still questioning his willingness to change.
After his latest start against the Indians, Stephenson had these post game comments:
“The way I pitched tonight was unacceptable. Can’t happen. I had a really hard time tonight gripping the ball. As much as I don’t want to give an excuse, that’s the God’s honest truth. Obviously, I’m going to find a way between starts to figure it out and throw more balls in the zone.”
But wait…there’s more:
“Walks are part of my game,” Stephenson said. “But lately, the walks I’ve been issuing are not the walks I want to issue. There’s times for it and there’s times not for it. Lately, those are not the time.”
I have listened to the interview multiple times and Stephenson did hold himself accountable for his lack of control and his walks. He knows he needs to do better, which is good. He blamed sweat and his lack of grip on the ball, which may seem weak in some regards, but at the end of the day those issues are kind of on him and he seems to know it.
As far as his comments about “walks being part of my game” – I think some fans have misinterpreted those comments. Strategically, walks do make sense at times. I think he just communicated what he meant poorly. Obviously Stephenson isn’t out there trying to walk the pitcher on four straight pitches. That’s not “part of his game”. He even backed this up by saying “lately, the walks I’ve been issuing are not the walks I want to issue.”
So, does Robert Stephenson know that walking batters is an issue for him? I believe so. Is he willing to change or does he have the actual ability to throw more strikes? This is the question that still needs to be answered.
Robert Stephenson’s future in the Reds organization is muddy. He will most likely continue to get starts through the remainder of the year (and he should) but you have to wonder what’s going to happen with him if he continues to have control issues and continues to pitch poorly. Is there room for him and would he serve better in the bullpen? Does he become part of a trade package this winter that lands an upgraded rotation or roster piece for the 2019 season?
The window on Robert Stephenson is still open, but it’s closing in a hurry. Until he stops doing the things that have haunted him over the years he’s not going to be counted on to be a viable part of this team…and I’m starting to lose faith that’s ever going to happen.
Jeff is Cincinnati born, Ohio University educated. Reds baseball has been a central theme of his family ever since his mom and dad helped him skip school to attend Opening Day. Jeff has been accused of having a “man crush” on Joey Votto and longs for the day that he gets to witness the Reds finally win a playoff series. You can follow him on Twitter @Gaaangs