E.A. Sports Today

Up and ready

Oxford’s Stephens settling in with Reds, could make big-league debut this weekend against the Braves

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Jackson Stephens knew it would take hard work to make it to the big leagues; he just didn’t think getting to his first game was going to be so tough.

The right-handed pitcher from Oxford got the call to the big leagues Tuesday morning and did all he could to join the Reds in Toronto that night. Problem was, when first pitch was thrown in Rogers Center that night, he was hung in the Atlanta airport waiting to get out.


He got to the team hotel about 1 in the morning.

“It was just bad luck on the flights and everything,” Stephens said Thursday. “There’s nothing you could’ve done or the Reds could’ve done to get me up there quicker. It wasn’t anything crazy; it wasn’t bad. It’d have been more stressful if they needed me. It would have been nice to be there … but I got there, that’s all that mattered.”

He was back in the ballpark with the Reds eight hours later sitting in the bullpen ready if the call came to pitch. When he got to the clubhouse he was congratulated for the promotion by players he spent spring training with but after the initial pleasantries it was down to business.

He never got up in the bullpen as the Reds got a quality start from Tim Adleman and turned it over to Wandy Peralta and Drew Storen for an inning apiece in the late-inning loss. So, the next chance for Stephens to make his major-league debut as a long reliever will be this weekend in Cincinnati against, of all teams, the Braves.

“It would be pretty neat growing up watching the Braves and being able to pitch for the first time against them, but getting out on the mound in a big-league game against anybody would be fine with me,” Stephens said. “It would be kind of ironic a little bit how it worked out, but it doesn’t matter. I just want to get in the game and if my number’s called do the best I can.”

If his first day and a half in the big leagues was a whirlwind at least he got some time to catch his breath Thursday. It was an off day for the Reds and Stephens spent it going back to Louisville, putting some affairs in order and getting his truck before heading back to Cincinnati.

This stay in the majors isn’t expected to be a lengthy one, as Reds manager Bryan Price has expressed a desire to see Stephens as a starter, but unexpected things do happen. He seems prepared for whatever may come.

“Whatever they tell me to do, I’ll do; I don’t care, just being here is pretty awesome,” he said. “I personally want to contribute while I’m up here and do the best I can and compete. That’s what I pride myself on.”

MLB Players born in Calhoun County
Colter Bean, Anniston — Yankees, 2005-2007
x-Todd Cunningham, Jacksonville — Braves, Angels, 2013-
Tommy O’Brien, Anniston — Pirates, Red Sox, Senators, 1943-50
Willie Smith, Anniston — Tigers, Angels, Indians, Cubs, Reds, 1963-71
Jackson Stephens, Anniston — Reds, 2017-
Ed White, Anniston — White Sox, 1955
x-Currently with St. Louis AAA affiliate
SOURCE: Baseball Almanac

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