Tyler Stephenson latest Reds prospect to get spring spotlight

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

WATCH: Tyler Stephenson talks Reds spring training

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The first week of spring training games has provided a peek at the future for the Cincinnati Reds.

One night after pitchers Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo showed off their electric arms, their potential catcher of the future stepped into the spotlight Wednesday night.

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Tyler Stephenson went 1 for 2 against the Dodgers, leading off the second inning with a line-drive double to center field.

It was his first hit of the spring, and he came around to score a run on Max Schrock’s single two batters later.

“It felt great,” Stephenson told reporters on a post-game video conference. “I’ve been seeing the ball really well in live (batting practice) and in the game two days ago. I fell behind in the count, got a fastball, got on time and got a good swing out of it.”

The Reds’ 2015 first-round pick has had to pay quite a few dues in getting his chance at The Show.

The Kennesaw, Ga., native did two tours with the Dayton Dragons and spent all of 2018 at Advanced-A Daytona before spending all of the ’19 season at Double-A Chattanooga.

With the 2020 minor league season wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic, he made his Reds debut last season and went 5 for 17 with a pair of home runs in eight games.

Now it looks like he will skip Triple-A altogether as the Reds have him penciled in as the No. 2 catcher behind Gold Glover Tucker Barnhart.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-handed hitter is expected to bring some pop to the plate, but the team is more concerned about this development behind it.

“Tyler came up last year and showed what he can do offensively,” manager David Bell said. “There’s been a big focus on getting better defensively, which he has. He’s making great progress, but for a young player it’s good to get a few hits early in spring training, too.

“The ball that he hit sounded really good off the bat. He made solid contact and the ball really jumped off his bat. So far, so good with Tyler. He’s having a good spring so far.”

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After raving about the arm talent of the two pitchers he caught — Jeff Hoffman and Tejay Antone — Stephenson confirmed that his focus is on improving as a catcher as well.

“Just trying to execute game calling and some pitches with the pitchers, especially trying to fill in this role this upcoming year,” Stephenson said. “Just trying to be on the same page with them and keep control of the game.”

Stephenson is the No. 95 prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline and No. 4 in the Reds organization behind Lodolo, Greene and 2020 first-round pick Austin Hendrick, an outfielder from Pennsylvania.

OF comings and goings

Outfielder Nick Castellanos was scratched from the lineup Tuesday with finger tendinitis and did not play Wednesday, but Bell said he would have been playing if it were the regular season.

“It made sense to keep him out just to be sure,” Bell said. “And didn’t want any bad habits by compensating. He was gonna probably play (Thursday) but it probably makes more sense to wait until Friday to give it an extra day to play Friday-Sunday with the off day Saturday.”

Fellow outfielder Jesse Winker was in the lineup Thursday night for the first time since being scratched Monday with a sore right hip.

The team also announced outfielder Shogo Akiyama returned to the team Thursday after missing seven days with a personal issue not related to COVID-19.

Pitching notes

Sonny Gray was set to pitch Thursday night against the Royals with Jose De Leon starting Friday night and Noe Ramirez taking the hill Sunday against the Giants.

The Reds don’t have an official game Saturday, but that is the next time Greene and Lodolo are scheduled to get work.

They are set to be part of the pitching lineup in a “B” Game against the Cleveland Indians. Also set to pitch for the Reds on Saturday are Wade Miley, Tyler Mahle, Graham Ashcroft, Lyon Richardson and Reiver Sanmartin.

FRIDAY’S GAME

Diamondbacks at Reds, 8:05 p.m., FS Ohio, 700

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