It would seem that all of the Cincinnati Reds beat writers got the same email at the same time. C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic was able to beat everyone else to the tweet by about 15 seconds. Robert Stephenson will make his first start of the year for the Reds on Wednesday in New York against the Mets.

It’s been a strange path over the last year for Robert Stephenson. After beginning the 2017 season in the big league bullpen and being used incredibly strangely, he was sent back to Triple-A in late May. He performed well in Louisville as a starting pitcher. He then returned to the Major Leagues for the final two months of the season. Now a starter, he posted a 3.30 ERA in 60.0 innings. He allowed 48 hits in that span, but did walk 37 batters – a rate that was much higher than you would like  to see. That did come with 59 strikeouts, though.

Despite having success in the Majors as a starter with the Reds in the second half of 2017, he went back to the minors to begin 2018. And that’s where he’s been all season long despite the struggles of the rotation, who has an ERA over 5.00 as a whole. Had Robert Stephenson been struggling in Louisville, it would have made sense. But as I type this he’s currently sporting a 2.87 ERA in 113.0 innings. He’s also given up 74 hits allowed and he’s struck out 135 batters. The walk rate is still higher than you would like – he’s given out 57 of them this season. Still, it’s not as if there has been roaring success with the guys ahead of him, either.

Since he was moved from the big league bullpen last May, as a starting pitcher between Triple-A and the Major Leagues he’s thrown 213.1 innings with 149 hits allowed, 107 walks (still too high), and he’s struck out 239 batters. Oh, and his ERA is 3.16 in that stretch.

Will Robert Stephenson remain in the Majors?

Updated: It appears that Robert Stephenson will indeed remain in the Major Leagues. Mark Sheldon or just tweeted this out, from manager Jim Riggleman:


43 Responses

  1. James Phillips

    Too bad he isn’t starting tonight when I’ll be at the game.

  2. AirborneJayJay

    Good news. It is upon Robert to execute and pitch well, not be out there to show his stuff. It would be nice for the Reds offense to give him an early lead.

  3. Tom

    Glad the Reds have helped him out by keeping him in AAA to learn. Show us what you got Robert!

  4. redleggingfordayz

    I really hope this is a permanent decision. I personally think Romano has shown that he is more suited for bullpen work at this point. Harvey traded or just DFA’d. Go into 2019 with at least a little more information on what you have. The rest of 2018 you go with:

    1. Castillo
    2. Disco
    3. Stephenson
    4. Reed\Sims
    5. Bailey

    See how we do with that, for the later half of 2018 and first half of 2019 and re-evaluate. If the SP still isn’t getting it done, then acquire someone via trade to bolster the staff. Just my thoughts I guess, perhaps the Reds FO has a different plan in mind. I get what they tried to do with Harvey this year, but now that the trade deadline has come and gone, why is he still taking innings?

    • Colorado Red

      The Reds have a different plan.
      Sit on there hands, and do nothing.

      • Alex

        Please tell me why you believe the reds are sitting on their hands doing nothing? This is about the best Stephenson has ever looked. Maybe he was actually learning how to pitch in AAA. Maybe the reds had a plan the whole time? He seems like he is ready now and he is getting his chance.

      • redleggingfordayz

        It is not like I want Bailey in there, I just realize how improbable it is that Big Bob actually ditches that contract based on previous decisions….

  5. ohiojim

    I think spring training has shown us something where RS is concerned. Like a lot of guys with big time stuff, he tends to start slowly and take a while to get all the pieces moving the right direction at the right time after the winter off.
    So, he is probably never going to win a flat out sprint for a rotation spot based solely on ST performance. But cut him some slack and by early May he might be your best starter.

    • Norwood Nate

      That’s a good point Jim.

      I would like to see the Reds keep Stephenson as a starter. I’m of the belief, that a guy with that good of stuff needs to prove he can’t make it as a starter before you move him to the pen. Stephenson’s final stretch last year and this season’s production is telling me the opposite of that. Without options, Stephenson needs to be given starts so the Reds can evaluate his progress and ability as a starter against big league pitching over as many starts as possible so we don’t have to rely on a small sample size against irregular competition in ST.

      • SteveLV

        Agree, Nate. It would make no sense to give up on someone who has the stuff to be in the top half of a rotation when the alternatives don’t have that kind of ceiling – and aren’t pitching well in any case.
        If Castillo and Stephenson can reach their potential, that is the makings of a good pitching staff. Give them every opportunity to do so.

      • MK

        There comes a time when a player has to seize the moment. This is Robert’s time. I believe if he doesn’t do it this time he will be traded this offseason where a change of scenery might be good for him. Hope he finally gets it done.

  6. Stock

    They need to promote Reed and Sims also. Seems to me that all three have more potential than Romano.

    I would love to see a 2019 rotation of Stephenson (highest rating #19), Reed (#34), Sims (#57), DeSclafani (NR) and Bailey (#5). I would love to see Castillo in the super reliever role ala Miller and Hadar.

    The Rotation would include 4 former top 100 prospects per Baseball America (highest rating above) and two studs in the bullpen (Iggy (#58), Castillo), two really good converted SP (Lorenzen (#63) and Garrett (#73)) two RP having great years (Hughes, Hernandez) and one highly thought of prospect out of options (Wisler (#34))

    This places Mahle, Mella, Reyes and Romano in Louisville. The bullpen could be better than this year and the Rotation has a super high ceiling.

    • ClayMC

      Castillo has been the only starter this year that looks like an above average pitcher. While you may want to see him as a reliever, I’d give it about a 0.01% chance of happening.

  7. Joe

    Congrats Robert Stephenson show em you belong and hopefully take your spot atop our rotation we have been waiting for you to take that spot for 2yrs now make it worth the wait!

  8. Scott

    1. I think its the walks and attitude that has kept him from Cincy thus far this year.

    2. As long as the Reds are insistent on winning as many games as possible every rebuilding year, instead of focusing on player development and “sorting” they will continue to give innings to those who won’t be around a year or so from now. Pitchers and fielders.

      • GM Nep O'Tism

        Probably referring to throwing out this line while your organization has been trying to get you to limit walks:

        “Obviously, I’d like to limit the walk numbers, but at the same time, I don’t think that they are the most important things ever.”

  9. Joe

    On a side note Ariel Hernandez was claimed off waivers today by th brewers

  10. Norwood Nate

    I’m happy for Stephenson. I hope he can settle any nerves and just keep pitching like he’s been pitching for a couple months. Hopefully this is more of just a one time gig and he’ll get an opportunity the remainder of the year to show what he can do.

    I’d like to see Romano to the pen until Harvey is traded/released.

  11. AirborneJayJay

    What about the Brewers making a waiver claim and picking up Ariel Hernandez? That would signal that the Reds passed. They could have had him back for free and passed. Well it would have cost someone a 40 man roster spot though. It is a bit interesting. It shows they don’t think his control issues are fixable, or they don’t want to spend the time and a 40 man roster spot to finally find out if they can or can’t. There was high promise and potential with Hernandez. It could never be realized. Doug had a bromance going with Hernandez’s arm at one time. Maybe he can get it together somewhere down the road and have 2 or 3 years in the majors late like Jumbo Diaz did before quickly fading.

    • Joe

      To Doug’s credit The guy did hav a sick slider worth crushing over tho

    • Doug Gray

      If you don’t have a bromance with his arm, your eyes are broken.

      He’s got insane stuff. The control, on the other hand, well – it’s a big time issue.

  12. AirborneJayJay

    Doug I saw one of your twitter tweets about Ken Rosenthal’s article and Billy Hamilton. That would be a good subject for you to delve into for an in-depth article.
    RE: Bob Castellini throwing down the hammer on baseball moves, how it is hindering the front office from making the Reds better and how his meddling is harming The Rebuild. For Castellini to change his ways, it will take being publicly shamed for his meddling in a mass way. Let the public shaming begin and call out his meddling on your national platforms, here and at The Athletic. Castellini needs to be called out on this in a big way.

      • Doug Gray

        If the Enquirer writing about it didn’t work, surely me writing about it isn’t going to work.

  13. Andy

    Out of curiosity, was the timing of Mahle’s demotion and Stephenson’s promotion motivated by service time? Did Reds keep BobSteve down juuuust long enough that he won’t get a full service year combined with previous experience? Same wuestion for Mahle?

    • Bill

      I don’t think either move is service time related.

      Stephenson entered the year with 167 days of service time. 172 earns credit for a full year. So, if he stays on the Red’s roster for 5 or more days, he will be credited with a year of service. Leaving him in the minors for nearly the remainder of the season is the only way for the Reds to gain an additional year of control at this point. Promoting him now was the wrong move if they wanted that additional year.

      Similarly Mahle has accrued 163 days of service time to this point. 36 days last season and 127 thus far this year. So he will have to stay in the minor for nearly the entire rest of the season for the Red’s to capture an additional year of control. Mahle will have two additional options available for future seasons.

  14. Michael B. Green

    I think this is a great sign, for Cinci. What are they doing with Mella?

    • redlegs4ever

      I would guess he goes back down tomorrow and takes Robert’s spot in the AAA rotation.

  15. kevinz

    Congrats Stephenson. I think this time around will be much better.
    He might not be in his first start from nerves and trying to hard.
    He even admitted did not have the Confidence before.
    That is the first step now he is trusting his stuff that what he said about this call up.
    Well here is hoping for the best Robert you have the stuff go right at em.
    Castillo and Yourself could be a lethal Combo .

  16. MK

    Thomas not in Greeneville line up second straight day. Is he injured or might he be heading to Billings or Dayton? They are both off today. The Dragons could use a first baseman.

  17. kevinz

    Nice homer Ervin man so much more on balanced at the plate than ever before.

  18. kevinz

    looks like Trammell got hurt anyone see it? Plz cannot take another top prospect injury. Injury happening at MLB level and Minors. Please Lord give Reds good luck from this day Foward lol

  19. Hoyce

    Stephenson prediction: he goes 7.0 innings, 3 hits. 10 ks and 4 walks. Gives up 1 or 2 runs.

  20. Doc

    Might want to revise the Stephenson predictions. Four innings, three runs, five walks (two intentional), three hits. Next start will be the good one, I hope.

    Reds don’t seem to be able to bring a guy up and get 6-7 no hit innings. How did the Cardinals manage it on back to back starts? Maybe the Reds need a better pregame pep talk.

    • Bubba Woo

      For everyone clamoring to hurry up and demote Mahle so that we can see the new and improved Robert Stephenson, today was just the latest reminder that Stephenson=Fool’s Gold. As bad as Mahle has struggled since the All-Star break (and he did deserve to get demoted to AAA), by 2020 I’d wager he’s a solid if unspectacular Starting Pitcher for the Reds or another MLB team, and that Stephenson will either be some team’s mop-up guy, or pitching in the Independent League. I’d put him behind Castillo, Mahle, Romano, DeScalfani, Mella, Garrett, and Santillan as an option when trying to figure out the 2019 rotation.

  21. kevinz

    Rough start for stephenson but one start does not make a career.
    He needs a chance like Castillo and Romano has gotten.
    Robert has not a period of time to adjust up here.
    Who knows he may fail he may succeed.
    I am hoping he can be Lance lynn or Trevor Bauer high walk Rate type Pitchers.
    Took Bauer awhile to figure it out Patience is Key some find it at 24 some at 26-28.

  22. Doc

    My understanding is that WHIP is walks plus hits per inning, and that neither is weighted more than the other. If that is so, then a pitcher who walks no one and gives up six hits has the same WHIP as someone who walks four and gives up two hits.

    Last I knew, a walk only ends up as a one base walk; hits range from one to four bases. At most, a walk drives in one run while a hit, at most, drives in four. Even outs drive in runs. So given the basics, I don’t understand the big concern about walks, except if they are evaluated in isolation from the rest of the performance line.

    Two of RS walks today were manager decisions, so, in effect, RS walked three and gave up three hits in four innings. The hits hurt him and it wouldn’t really have mattered if the men on base were there due to hits or walks. Only one run scored on a walk.

    Most SP don’t seem to pitch as well from the stretch as they do from the windup so walking a man changes the dynamics of their pitching. Not so with RS since he pitches exclusively from the stretch.

    I would love to have seen a better start, but I concur with kevinz, he needs a decent shot. I place more credence in his performance over his string of starts the end of last year than I do over 4 innings today. I reserve the right to reassess if he has a four game stretch in which he only lasts10 innings with an ERA about 20, as Mahle had.

    Just a thought, but where does Nolan Ryan sit on the all time ranking of walks allowed?