CINCINNATI -- The Reds want to see what their future rotation looks like, and they want Robert Stephenson to be part of that future. But during his stint at Triple-A Louisville, Stephenson had to do his part by cutting down walks, showing more command in the strike zone and improving his third pitch.
Based on those factors, mission accomplished. Stephenson was recalled on Saturday to face the Marlins.
"He's been a performer down there," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Friday. "He's done what we've asked, which was to pound the zone. We've also asked him to work on his slider, which he has done. He has thrown it very effectively. We also have to learn about these guys. We've had a rough start to the second half. We have a lot of questions to answer about our club, in particularly with our pitching and where we're going. Those questions will go unanswered if we don't give these guys an opportunity to pitch."
Stephenson struggled in Spring Training, but earned a big league bullpen spot out of camp. It didn't go well, as he went 0-2 with an 8.03 ERA and a 1.98 WHIP in 13 appearances.
At Louisville, Stephenson had a 3.79 ERA in eight games. After initially racking up walks, he allowed just one over his last four starts and 21 2/3 innings. The 24-year-old made both mental adjustments and mechanical changes.
"As far as the mechanical stuff, I tried going over my head out of the windup. I tried it and I walked five guys in two innings," Stephenson said. "The next time around I tried just going down a little bit lower with my hands, and that's pretty much stuck with me the last couple of times and I've been a lot better like that. As far as mental stuff, when I have a guy behind in the count, I have to tell myself I don't care if I walk him. I push it out of my head that I don't care about it. It's been working that way."
The surprise season at the plate from utility player Scooter Gennett had prompted Price to shoehorn him in the lineup at different positions lately. That's changed, as Price has decided to bench second baseman Jose Peraza and make Gennett the regular at second.
Entering Friday, Gennett was batting .307/.357/.584 with a career-high 16 home runs and 54 RBIs in 79 games and only 231 at-bats. Peraza was batting .253/.277/.328 with four homers and 26 RBIs in 90 games and 344 at-bats. He has not drawn an unintentional walk in 191 plate appearances, the longest stretch in the Majors this season.
"I think the numbers speak for themselves," Price said. "I think this serves two purposes. No. 1, it's to get the production Scooter has provided us all year into the lineup with more regularity. And also it gives Jose a bit of a blow from the grind that it's been these first 3 1/2 months of our season."
No surgery for Feldman
A second-opinion exam on starting pitcher Scott Feldman's injured knee confirmed that he has right knee inflammation. Feldman, who went on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday, will not need surgery.
"At this point, it sounds as if we can go with a treatment-only approach, strengthen his quad, which will support and take some pressure off of his knee, and getting the pain under control," Price said.
DeSclafani ready for rehab assignment
On Tuesday, Anthony DeSclafani (UCL sprain) threw two innings in a simulated game in Goodyear, Ariz. Up next is a three-inning start with the rookie-level Arizona League Reds on Sunday, which would be the start of a rehab assignment that could last up to 30 days.