It was 98 degrees at the start of the game on Wednesday night in Modesto. Robert Stephenson was even hotter.
The Reds' No. 2 prospect allowed a run on six hits and struck out six over 6 1/3 innings for his first California League win as Class A Advanced Bakersfield cruised to an 11-2 victory over Modesto.
The California native carried a shutout into the sixth before allowing a solo homer to Jared Simon. He exited after fanning Trevor Story to open the seventh, reaching 100 mph on the radar gun at John Thurman Field.
"I thought my fastball and curveball were going well," said Stephenson, noting he's hit 100 a few times this year. "I was trying to work on my changeup, I didn't have a feel for it. It's been kind of hit-or-miss this year, I've been working on it. It's something I'm trying to develop."
Stephenson (1-1) was solid in his Cal League debut on Friday, giving up three runs -- two earned -- on seven hits over six innings but took the loss against Visalia. Wednesday's win proved extra special since it came in front of family members.
"I was just excited," he said when asked if he was nervous. "I was definitely excited, especially because I got to do it in front of friends and family."
The Reds promoted the 20-year-old right-hander after he went 5-3 with a 2.57 ERA in 14 starts for Class A Dayton, where he still ranks fourth in the Midwest League with 96 strikeouts. Stephenson was quick to note the difference in hitters between the two levels.
"The thing I noticed the most in the last start is that they take a lot of pitches and they have a good eye," he said. "It seems like unless it's right in the zone or it's going to be in the zone they lay off it. That's the biggest difference."
For Stephenson to continue to progress, it comes back to the changeup and its development.
"I think as long as I can locate my pitches and keep them down in the zone, I think I might be able to have success here," he said. "But to move up levels and to the Major Leagues, I think I need to develop my changeup and make sure that it's a quality pitch."
Bakersfield staked Stephenson to the lead before he took the mound, scoring four times in the top of the first against Nuts starter Chris Jensen (3-6). Juan Silva delivered an RBI triple and scored on a groundout by Juan Silverio before Juan Duran plated two runs with a double.
Silva totaled two hits, drove in two runs and scored twice, while Kyle Waldrop was 3-for-5 with a solo homer and fell a single shy of the cycle for the Blaze.
Story -- the Rockies' No. 2 prospect -- had two hits, including an RBI single, for the Nuts.