CINCINNATI — It’s wasn’t great. But it was a great first step.
Top Reds prospect Robert Stephenson won his big league debut Thursday, beating the Philadelphia Phillies 10-6. Stephenson went five innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits. He walked two and struck out one.
The Reds didn’t know quite what to expect with Stephenson, the 23-year-old right-hander. He allowed five runs in three innings in his last spring outing against Milwaukee — with a chance to make the team squarely on the line.
“I think I was putting too much pressure on myself, thinking it was an opportunity to make the team,” Stephenson said. “Today going out there, there’s really nowhere to go but right here. There was a little bit of relief already being on the team and going out there and having fun, instead of putting pressure on myself.”
Stephenson walked the first three batters in his outing against the Brewers.
“He was so much better than that game,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “He was down in the zone. He utilized his fastball and split-finger and a few curveballs. He just commanded down in the zone so much better.
“I thought he had very good composure, focus.”
Stephenson’s chance came because Anthony DeSclafani is on the disabled list. DeSclafani will almost certainly start Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Indeed, the Reds sent Stephenson back to Triple-A Louisville right after the game. But Thursday’s start should have a lasting effect.
“You make the most out of every opportunity you get,” Stephenson said. “I wanted to go out and have fun, get everything out of the way. That way when I come back, I’m ready to go for the long haul.”
“It was a good way for him to come in here and get his feet wet,” Price said.
Stephenson’s line was ruined by the two-run home run he gave up to Ryan Howard in the fifth. It came after the Reds scored eight in the fourth. Stephenson threw almost all fastballs.
“My off-speed, I was having a hard tine getting it to break,” Stephenson said. “I was relying on my inside fastball. I was throwing whatever (catcher Tucker Barnhart) was putting down. He did a great job.”
Stephenson will likely be back in the big leagues some time this season. He’ll know what to expect because of Thursday’s experience.
“It’s always good to get that first one out of the way, to get the jitters out of there,” he said. “You come back the next time and you’re more prepared and you can settle down a little bit.”