E.A. Sports Today

Stephens to get MLB start

Oxford right-hander to make his major league debut Saturday in start against the Cubs

By East Alabama Sports Today

Oxford’s Jackson Stephens warmed up in the bullpen during his recent call-up with the Cincinnati Reds in Toronto, but never got in the game. There’s no doubt he’ll pitch for the Reds in his callup now.

Reds manager Bryan Price said after Thursday night’s loss to Milwaukee that Stephens would start Saturday’s game against the Chicago Cubs. It will be Stephens’ major-league debut.

A contingent of family and Oxford friends are making the trip to see it.

“Last time it was like the unknown,” Oxford coach Wes Brooks said. “Being a long relief guy you never know when or if you are going to pitch. When he called this time I told him I’d be there. Very proud for him for this opportunity. Now he needs to make the best of it!”

According to Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Reds passed over at least three young pitchers to call on Stephens. Two of them, Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson, looked strong recently in spite of struggles with command, but had pitched too soon to make the Saturday start. There were other roster considerations as well.

With Brandon Finnegan back on the DL and Anthony DeSclafani expected to be out until July there are spots available, so Stephens will get his shot to stick, Buchanan reported.

“It is important to start getting guys like Jackson opportunities to see what they can do here,” Dick Williams, the Reds president of baseball operations, told reporters Friday. “The timing worked out well for him.”

The Reds needed to have him on the trip to Toronto, but Price said at the time he would have preferred to bring up Stephens as a starter. He’s getting that chance now.

“… Jackson Stephens will be throwing the ball well on Saturday,” a hopeful Price told reporters after Thursday’s game. “I don’t feel sorry for myself or our team. I do think think we’ve fallen victim what many, many teams around baseball have fallen victim to, and that’s not being able to stay healthy with our starting rotation. The guys that are in there I think are capable of doing a fine job.”

Here is a statistical report on players from in and around Calhoun County playing pro baseball this summer. Stats are as of June 29.

[table id=47 /]

“(Stephens) got off to a very slow start in Triple-A and he’s pitched much better as of late,” Price told reporters on Friday. “I think that’s a good message for all of our guys in the system, is that we don’t pick up a stat sheet and look at the stats and say, ‘this is who you are.’ We look at certain sections of the season, he’s been competing a lot better in the zone with his stuff.

“We like his mix of pitches. He’s got four pitches, he throws them all for strikes. I feel like this is a great opportunity to get him up here and get an opportunity to get his feet wet and pencil him in to a start where he knows for sure that he’s going to pitch.”

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