Not surprising, many fans were irate when it became known that the Reds sent Robert Stephenson back to Triple-A Louisville after his nice start on Tuesday.
7 ip, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 105 pitches/60 strikes.
The basic theme I got was “why send him down when he had one of the best starts of anyone on the team this season?”
Answer and a reminder: The Reds are looking at beyond 2016 with players like Stephenson. Not every decision is based doing whatever it takes to win, if it wrecks the long term plan in the big picture.
First — Stephenson only needs a little more than another week in the Minors to stave off free agency for an added year.
Second — Stephenson can return on Sunday without waiting the requisite 10 days in Louisville, if Alfredo Simon isn’t ready to go because of his biceps tendinitis and has to go on the DL. This way, the club can get a seventh reliever back in the bullpen in the meantime.
Third — The Reds feel that despite his early results, Stephenson still isn’t a finished product at the big league level.
“It’s a small sample size,” Reds manager Bryan Price said on Wednesday. “We have a lot more history with Robert – old past history than recent history. Our recent history is he’s had two nice games, one particularly nice game against the Rockies, which was yesterday. That being said, he doesn’t have a large sample size of Major League games, he’s got a couple. Coming into this year, our goal was to increase his overall strike percentage, increase his ability to command the zone with his breaking ball and change-up and improve his fastball command. I don’t want to be critical of his game yesterday, because he pitched beautifully. But he does have areas of his game to work on.
“I remember – I might have been pitching in Triple-A at the time when the Dodgers called up Ramon Martinez to make a start. I think it was his first major league start, he threw a shutout and was then returned to Albuquerque. The same with Mike Remlinger with Pittsburgh. The guy came up, pitched a shutout against the Giants, sent back down to the minor leagues. It’s not unprecedented. We’re going to have guys coming off the DL here pretty soon. I think it’s going to be more challenge for a guy like Robert to stay in this rotation long term at this point in time of the season. I’d rather him pitching regularly in Triple-A.”
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