Robert Stephenson entered the spring in competition for the 5th spot in the rotation. It appears that there may be more than just that spot available. If you’ve been living under a rock, you may have missed that Anthony DeSclafani strained his oblique in his last start. Brandon Finnegan left his last start with something going on in his forearm. He claims he’s good to go, but also notes that it’s not his decision as to whether he’ll miss any time before taking the mound again.

Sal Romano has pitched very well this spring, continuing with how he ended the 2017 season. The general belief is that he, short of something crazy happening in the next two weeks, should have a spot in the rotation locked down. For Robert Stephenson, and the others competing for the potentially open spot(s) in the rotation, the time is now to perform your best and make your claim for the spot.

When the Cincinnati Reds take the field later this afternoon against the Arizona Diamondbacks it will be Robert Stephenson getting the start. His first start of the spring came at the end of February. In a strange decision, he was put into a game without having faced live hitters all spring after he got a late start due to a slight neck issue popped up. Things didn’t go well that day. The next time out also didn’t go as planned for the 25-year-old right hander, as he walked three batters in 1.1 innings.

On March 8th, in his last appearance, Robert Stephenson looked like a different guy than the previous two outings. He threw 3.0 shutout innings and struck out three batters. He didn’t walk anyone and allowed just one hit. Stephenson was also throwing the baseball hard. Really hard. He averaged 96.5 MPH on the fastball and topped out at 98.6 MPH. And the pitch was one that he threw for strikes 70% of the time.

If Robert Stephenson can pitch like he did the last time out, and throw 4-5 innings like that, it could help get closer to locking in a spot in the rotation. But, if he throws more like he did the first two times out and struggles to throw strikes, it could mean he’s pushed towards the back of the line. After tomorrow it would seem there are only two more chances to start remaining for him in the spring. That leaves the start later today as a very big opportunity, but also one that could make-or-break the spring for the young righty.

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10 Responses

  1. The Duke

    I really hope the Reds stay the course with Bob Steve. He arguably has the best collection of pitches on the pitching staff if he can get the control to come together, and he has flashed it coming together in the past. His profile screams of a guy who is going to put it together a little later a la a Jake Arrieta and be a really good pitcher. I can see a pitching staff anchored by Castillo, Stephenson, Romano, and Mahle being a real multi-year contender. Not to mention we have more high upside guys in Garrett, Gutierrez, Santillan, and Hunter Greene.

    • Ron Arrington

      That group you mentioned is a nice looking group of young pitchers. You could include the 2016 Finnegan and have the makings of a contender. Add Winker and Senzel to the position group, and we’re almost there.

    • wes

      I started loosing faith in Bobsteve as an ace when I kept reading that his velocity and speed were dipping last season. However, the results Doug posted the other day show different results- the stuff of old….

      I have no doubt he cracks rotation- I just hope he can keep his spot all year and put together a full season- even if it’s not a great one, but good enough to stay in rotation- that’s a huge step forward for him

      • The Duke

        Johnny Cueto’s first full year was far from spectacular, but he flashed what he would become. If Bob Steve can just not fall off the rails and show progress, we should stay the course.

      • Billy

        I think Robert Stephenson is more like Homer Bailey than Cueto. Homer was a very hyped prospect who seemed to take forever to develop – even running out of options. In reality, he just kept improving incrementally, and he eventually became a very good – albeit never great – starting pitcher. Cueto was more under-the-radar and exploded on the scene. He was inconsistent for a bit, but when he put it all together, he was an ace. I wouldn’t be surprised if Castillo was the one like Cueto.

        I think they’ll both be at least serviceable, if not very good. I just don’t know that either of them will make a leap this year.

    • CP

      Couldn’t agree more Duke. I’m really pulling for Stephenson.

  2. AirborneJayJay

    I haven’t been a big fan of Robert Stephenson. But I have been rooting hard for him this spring. The Reds really need him to take that next step up as much as he needs it.
    We used to say if it were the Good Bronson or Bad Bronson that showed up. A Good Homer or a Bad Homer that showed up. I hope that won’t be the case for Stephenson. I’d like to see him get command of his control, especially on the fastball. When he is wild in the strike zone, he seems to get too many out over the heart of the plate. When he is on though, he can bust them in on the upper part of the strike zone. And then bring in that killer hook.

  3. citizen54

    I think regardless of today’s performance, he should be in the rotation especially considering that there are now two open spots. He has shown an ability to miss bats so he should be given every opportunity to succeed. With a 96-97 mph fast ball along with that nasty slider he definitely has TOR stuff.

  4. redleggingfordayz

    I literally don’t think this game could be anymore of a Robert Stephenson type game than it has been in this first inning lol. As I sit in my armchair, in coaching mode “JUST THROW STRIKES DUDE!”