E.A. Sports Today

Stephens gets call

Reds bring right-hander from Oxford to the big leagues; updated with manager Bryan Price’s pre-game comments Wednesday.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Jackson Stephens was still in the bed at 11 this morning, catching up on some ZZZs after getting back from a long Triple-A road trip to the East Coast just a few hours earlier, when the phone rang. His manager told him to get to the ballpark ASAP; he was on the move again.


Stephens got the call all baseball players wait for, the one to come to The Show. The Cincinnati Reds called the right-handed pitcher from Oxford to the big leagues Tuesday morning with instructions to meet the team in Toronto.

He couldn’t have gotten on the plane fast enough. Stephens is currently en route to Toronto where his plane is expected to land sometime during the Reds’ games with the Blue Jays tonight. (He never made it to the game, stuck, in of all places, the Atlanta airport when it began; he made it to the team hotel at about 1 a.m.)

“That’s the call you wait for,” his dad Jay told East Alabama Sports Today. “I had just come in from being at basketball workouts and taking care of a bus situation and he called. Nothing different, he calls randomly, and said ‘Hey dad, you want the good news or bad news?’

“I said give me the good news; I’d rather hear that. He said I got the call. Then I said if that’s the good news what’s the bad? (He said) I forgot to tell you to bring up my suit.”

The Louisville Bats had just returned from a road trip to Pawtucket and Lehigh Valley, and Jay Stephens was with them. Now, he’s making plans to be there for his son’s big-league debut, which could come in Wednesday’s 11:30 a.m. getaway game.

The elder Stephens said his son had no details as to the length of his stay or how he’ll be used. When he gets in a game he will be the 22nd pitcher the Reds will have used this season and the ninth player to make his Debut this year.

“He has no idea what’s going on,” said Wes Brooks, Stephens’ Oxford High baseball coach. “All he knows is the text just said work out of the pen for now.”

Reds writers are speculating Stephens’ call-up might be temporary until Tony Cingrani’s rehab assignment ends in a couple days, although with the immediate shape of the Reds’ bullpen he could be the first long reliever.

“He can give us length,” Reds manager Bryan Price told writers before Wednesday’s game. “Given the opportunity, I’m looking forward to seeing him pitch.”

Reds relievers Robert Stephenson and Jake Buchanan both gave up 10 hits in Monday’s 17-2 loss to the Blue Jays. Stephenson was sent down to AAA facilitating Stephens’ promotion.

In 10 games at Triple-A Louisville (all starts), Stephens was 3-3 with a 5.79 ERA. He threw a seven-inning complete-game shutout against Columbus on May 21, 10 days after his 23rd birthday.

“I’d much prefer to be bringing him to the big leagues as a starting pitcher because he’s really throwing great,” Price said. “I’d like to see Jackson get on a nice roll in Louisville and have him force his way into the rotation. I think that would be the best way for him to break in.”

In Stephens’ last Bats’ appearance before the call, Friday, he pitched six innings against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Phillies) giving up six hits, four runs and striking out seven in a no-decision. He even got his first hit of the season — a leadoff single in the sixth, his second at-bat of the season — and scored a run.

He was the right-handed pitcher of the year in the Reds’ minor-league system a year ago and the club added him to the 40-man roster in the fall to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.

“I feel like it’s more of a reward of the accomplishments you’ve one and you’ve put yourself out there to the fact you have worked hard and you have done this,” Stephens said last fall. “Mainly they protected me and they wanted me to be a part of the Reds system, which is a really good accomplishment.”

After the series, the Reds return to Cincinnati to play the Braves starting Friday.

This story will be updated for premium subscribers of East Alabama Sports Today.

Here’s a statistical update of the players from in and around Calhoun County playing professional baseball this summer:
[table id=47 /]
Stats are through May 29

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