Cincinnati Reds notes: Stephenson much better in second appearance

Reds relievers, including Robert Stephenson, center, stand for the national anthem before a game against the Brewers on Thursday, April 13, 2017, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff
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Reds relievers, including Robert Stephenson, center, stand for the national anthem before a game against the Brewers on Thursday, April 13, 2017, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

The Cincinnati Reds bullpen is a fun place to be these days. A bullpen that was the worst in baseball for most of last season owned the best ERA in baseball (1.23) through Wednesday. The bullpen inherited 12 baserunners in the first nine games and stranded them all.

“Everybody feeds off each other,” reliever Robert Stephenson said. “When you’ve got the hitters putting up runs every single night and all all the guys in the bullpen are throwing zeroes up there, it makes it fun to pitch.”

Stephenson provided an added boost for the bullpen Wednesday, throwing two scoreless innings to close a 9-2 victory over the Pirates in Pittsburgh. He showed much improvement from his first appearance Saturday when he allowed three earned runs on two hits and walked six in a 10-4 loss to the Cardinals.

“I think the first one I feel like it was the first game out and I was a little excited,” Stephenson said Thursday before the start of a four-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at Great American Ball Park. “I hadn’t pitched in a while. I’m glad I got that out of the way. I felt a little better yesterday coming out on normal rest.”

Stephenson threw a bullpen session between his two appearances and worked out some of his issues.

“I was able to work on making sure I keep my front side closed and get on top of the ball,” he said. “That was the biggest thing for me, making sure I create that angle. Once I create the angle, I can throw better strikes. In the St. Louis game, I was missing up and away every single time. That was the biggest correction I had to make.”

Rotation changes: Scott Feldman (1-0, 2.53 ERA) will start Friday for the Reds. Brandon Finnegan (1-0, 1.00) follows on Saturday. The Reds have not announced a starter for Sunday.

Rookie Davis is expected to miss one start with a bruised forearm. Manager Bryan Price may change up the rotation next week to break so his two veteran starters, Bronson Arroyo and Feldman, aren’t pitching back-to-back. He is also thinking of mixing up the rotation so hitters aren’t seeing three right-handed pitchers in a row and then two left-handers.

The Reds could use a reliever from their bullpen, Stephenson or Cody Reed, as a starter Sunday or call up a pitcher from Triple-A Louisville like Sal Romano.

“The problem with targeting Reed or Stephenson,” Price said, “is we have to get them time off before the start and time off after the start.”

Hot bat: Third baseman Eugenio Suarez is hitting .429. He was 10-for-19 with two home runs and eight RBIs on a six-game road trip that saw the Reds take two of three in St. Louis and then sweep the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“Everything feels good,” Suarez said. “I’m just trying to do the same thing every day.”

First pitch: Former Ohio State Buckeyes hybrid back Curtis Samuel threw out the ceremonial first pitch Thursday.