Stephenson struts stuff in second MLB start

Rookie returns to Triple-A after posting longest outing by Reds pitcher in 2016

Stephenson struts stuff in second MLB start

CINCINNATI -- The only Reds pitcher to complete seven innings this season will be back in Triple-A Louisville on Wednesday. Top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson gave his club the superb outing it craved in a 4-3 win over the Rockies, but the big picture plan does not change.

Stephenson, who gave up one earned run and three hits over his seven innings with two walks and three strikeouts, was summoned late Monday night to spot start. The scheduled pitcher, Alfredo Simon, was scratched with right biceps tendinitis. Simon is tentatively slated to start on Sunday, but Stephenson would be the backup plan.

"At this point in time, he's had two Major League starts. They've been good," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I still feel like he has some things he can improve upon. If the need was here, I'd be happy to have him pitch here. However, the need at this moment is not. We do think he has a little ways to go as far as his development."

Stephenson was optioned following his start Tuesday, and the Reds were expected to promote right-hander Drew Hayes from Triple-A Louisville on Wednesday before their matinee vs. the Rockies.

Stephenson also returned to Louisville the day after his big league debut, a five-inning start and victory over the Phillies on April 7. He is the first Reds pitcher to win his first two starts in the Majors since Larry Luebbers in 1993.

"It's whatever they want me to do," Stephenson said. "Every time I come back here, I just want to be able to come out here and do as well as I can and help the team out and get a win for the team."

Stephenson on his win vs COL

Against Colorado, Stephenson brought more fastball velocity than he had for the Phillies, this time with several pitches in the 93-95 mph range and touching 96. He kept the game moving and retired the side in order four times.

"We didn't know much about him, but to be honest with you, the velocity was a little more than we anticipated," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.

Said Stephenson: "I think today it just was a little bit warmer weather. My arm felt really good. I just let it go a little bit more today."

In the top of the second inning, Stephenson gave up a two-out double to Mark Reynolds then slipped on the mound for a balk that moved the runner to third base. Ben Paulsen followed with an RBI single before Stephenson walked Tony Wolters.

A first-pitch ball to pitcher Jorge De La Rosa brought out pitching coach Mark Riggins.

"He slowed me down and told me to go right after the guys," Stephenson said. "There was no reason I couldn't get them out by going right after them."

Stephenson retired 13 of the next 14 batters and was given the ball again for the seventh inning. He issued a one-out walk but got away clean.

"He was terrific. Really good all the way to the last pitch," Price said.

Stephenson arrived in Cincinnati Tuesday morning and prepared himself with time to spare for his second big league start. It lacked the butterflies of the first outing.

"I think it just eased the nerves a little to go out there knowing I've been here and feeling like I belong here," Stephenson said.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.