Cincinnati Reds top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson made his 2014 debut last night for the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos in relief of a rehabbing Jonathan Broxton. In a consistent drizzle of rain throughout the game the right hander announced his presence with authority as he completed his outing with five shutout innings of one hit, one walk baseball where he struck out 11 batters (and it should have been 12) on 74 pitches.
Last season Stephenson tired down the stretch of the season and had some struggles for the first time in the season over his last few weeks of the season with the Blue Wahoos. This season, fresh and ready to go, he dominated against the Chicago Cubs affiliate Tennessee Smokies who only made hard contact one time in the game off of Stephenson.
The right hander worked mostly with his fastball and curveball, mixing the latter in well and used both pitches to put hitters away. The change up was seldom used in this game and he really didn’t need it as the opposition had trouble even getting the bat on the ball. He challenged batters with the fastball and they had no chance. Then he would drop in a hammer curveball to leave them with even less of a chance.
To end his 4th inning of work Stephenson appeared to have dropped a curveball in for strike three right down the middle and he, the catcher, the infield and the batter all moved toward their respective dugouts thinking the inning was over, but the umpire called the pitch a ball to the surprise of everyone. The next pitch was grounded out to end the inning and taking what should have been another strikeout away from his already impressive total.
If what happened on the mound in Pensacola on Saturday night is a sign of things to come for Robert Stephenson in 2014, it is going to be very tough for the Cincinnati Reds to find a way to keep him out of the big leagues for the entire season.