Rookie Reds lead the pitching staff

Rookie Davis was determined to prove doubters wrong. Robert Stephenson had his own critics to win over.

Both did just that to open the season on the Reds’ Opening Day roster

Davis, who will start the third game of the regular season April 6 vs. the Phillies at Great American Ball Park, pitched with a strained groin last season. His velocity was down but he continued to pitch. Even though he had a 10-3 record with a 2.94 ERA at Double A Pensacola, those who rate prospects lost faith in him. Rated the organization’s ninth best prospect by in 2016, Davis dropped to No. 17 this year.

“Tell them thank you if you don’t mind,” Davis said. “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but if you write me off, I’m the type of guy that will do everything I can to prove you wrong.”

“My stuff came back to where it was in 2015,” Davis added. “The addition of the slider became a swing and miss pitch for me. Overall it was coming in every day with the same mentality and mind set to compete.”

Davis found out that he made the team and rotation on Tuesday afternoon. A quick tweet to his father Billy in North Carolina. He has six family members on their way to Cincinnati for his MLB debut. Davis is one of seven rookies on the Opening Day roster along with Stephenson, Amir Garrett, Barrett Astin, WAndy Peralta, Stuart Turner and Patrick Kivlehan.

“It’s a special day,” said Davis, who came to the Reds in the trade that sent Aroldis Chapman to the New York Yankees. “I’ve waited 23, almost 24 years, to hear that news.” He will turn 24 on April 29.

Stephenson was the Reds’ top pick in the 2011 draft and the 27th player chosen overall. His locker was next to Davis’ this spring.

Stephenson still has rookie status even though he made eight starts last season. He won his first two starts, including his debut April 7.

The 24-year old struggled with an 8-9 record in 24 starts at Louisville.

This is what Louisville manager Delino DeShields told the Courier-Journal in August about Stephenson:

“This is what we’ve been going through with this kid for the last three or four years,” DeShields said, referring to Stephenson’s control issues. “Until he makes an adjustment, it’s going to continue. It’s not going to get better. It’s on him. He’s been told what he needs to do and what he needs to work on by numerous coaches and staff members. It’s up to him to make those adjustments. If I was him, I’d be embarrassed.”

Stephenson took the words to heart.

“He’s done more than probably anybody else in the last two or three weeks to show signs of turning a corner to look like a big leaguer.” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “I feel strongly that he can help us in this role and develop as a pitcher.”

The 6-foot-2 Californian is going to begin the season in the bullpen but the long range plans is for him to return to a starting role.

“I just want any opportunity to be in the big leagues,” Stephenson said. “I want to go up there and get myself better for years to come. I’m confidant that I will be back in the starting rotation. I think this is good for me for now.”

Stephenson concentrated on pitching inside and learned a slider.

“I had a tough time this spring throwing the curve ball. My last bullpen they said we want to work on a slider today. I said ‘OK let’s try this.’ The action on it is really good. I have to work on locating it better.”

The group of young pitchers, including Cody Reed, Amir Garrett and Sal Romano, is very close off the field. Reed, Garrett and Romano shared a house with Stephenson this spring.

“Off the field it’s been the exact same camaraderie every day,” Stephenson said. “You don’t think that someone has to go down until it does happen. I’m confident that all of us will be here together someday.”

Davis didn’t live in the house but he is included in the group.

“To be honest, the way we went about everything every day, it didn’t change,” Davis said. “We still joke around with each other. We want to see each other do well. It’s unfortunate for Sal, who had a phenomenal spring. I do know that he will be in the big leagues sooner or later. We knew that there would be two of us that wouldn’t make it. I will be excited to see Sal and T.A (Tim Adleman) up there soon.”

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