Robert Stephenson knew going into his first major league start of the 2017 season on Saturday that it wouldn’t be his last.
Manager Bryan Price already had promised that Stephenson, Cincinnati’s top pick and the 27th overall selection in the 2011 draft, would be part of the Reds rotation long enough for Price and the franchise’s decision-makers to definitively gauge the right-hander’s progress.
“This is an opportunity for Rob to be in the rotation,” Price said. “We also know that (Anthony DeSclafani) will be back here in the next few weeks and that Scott (Feldman) could rebound from (his knee problem) quicker than we initially anticipated. There may be a need to take a look at our rotation a few weeks from now, but right now, it is as it stands.”
That means Stephenson and fellow rookie right-handers Sal Romano, Sunday’s starter, and Luis Castillo will get multiple looks over the next few days at least, sandwiched in between veterans Tim Adleman and Homer Bailey.
If the schedule doesn’t change, Stephenson next will start at Miami on Thursday and at Pittsburgh on August 2. Romano, after starting on Sunday against the Marlins, will go Friday at Miami. Castillo, who is 1-3 with a 3,86 ERA in six starts, is scheduled to start on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium and Sunday at Miami.
Price is hoping to avoid having to recall a pitcher from Triple-A Louisville for a spot start, an all-too-frequent occurrence over the past couple of seasons. The Reds have used 14 starting pitchers this season, more than any other major league team.
“There’ve been starts that have served a purpose – the Romano start (in April), a couple of starts last year for Rob to get his feet wet, Jackson Stephens (on July 1),” Price said. “We knew they were one-and-done type scenarios. This, however, is not.”
Price, in fact, was looking forward to a pause in the never-ending shuttle of players back-and-forth between Cincinnati and Triple-A Louisville.
“I think we can, certainly,” he said. “It still has to be the performance portion of that. I think we really want to stay with our young guys in the rotation, knowing in the back of our minds that eventually we’ll get (DeSclafani) back, and there’s a good chance of getting Feldman back.
“The other part is the bullpen. We are going with a seven-man bullpen. We have one true length guy in (Asher Wojciechowski), and when we don’t have ‘Wojo’ available, we’re vulnerable to the short start. (Blake Wood’s) been stretched out to two or two-plus. You don’t want to use (Michael) Lorenzen, (Drew) Storen, (Wandy) Peralta, Raisel Iglesias in multiple innings in a game where you’re down or down significantly. That’s where our vulnerability will be moving forward – having some bullpen flexibility.”
No Dilson: Louisville placed second baseman Dilson Herrera on the seven-day disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder, a problem that’s plagued him since spring training, when he batted .308 in 12 games.
Herrera, part of the package acquired from the New York Mets in last season’s trade-deadline deal of right fielder Jay Bruce, was limited to 68 games with the Bats this season. He hit .264 with seven home runs while driving in 42 runs.
Price was prepared for the possibility that Herrera, 23, might not be available when active rosters can be expanded on September 1.
“He hasn’t had the type of year that he expected,” Price said. “He had to battle that shoulder during spring training, and we didn’t get a very good look at him. It would be very disappointing not to see him. He really swung the bat well in spring training. We just couldn’t get him on the field defensively. It would be a setback for sure – certainly disappointing.”
Full tank: Eleven days, 10 games, four cities – that’s the breakdown of the Reds road trip, which is scheduled to start on Monday with a 7:10 p.m. game in Cleveland that was scheduled as the makeup for a game postponed by rain on May 25. Right-hander Tim Adleman (5-7, 4.96) is scheduled to start for the Reds. He allowed three hits and two runs in 3 1/3 innings of his only other career start against the Indians on May 19 of last season. Right-hander Josh Tomlin (6-9, 5.74) is Cleveland’s scheduled starter.
The Reds have won two of the first three games of the annual Ohio Cup series against the Indians.
The Reds are scheduled to go on and play two against the Yankees in New York, four in Miami and, after a day off, three in Pittsburgh.