Though Robert Stephenson's most recent start for the Bakersfield Blaze was limited to just 2 1/3 innings after giving up a pair of two-run homers, his future seems unlimited.
Stephenson, a 20-year-old right-hander taken by Cincinnati with the 27th overall pick in the 2011 Draft, is ranked by MLB.com as the No. 2 prospect in the Reds system. He joined the Blaze earlier this month after going 5-3 with a 2.57 ERA, 96 strikeouts and only 20 walks over 77 innings in the Midwest League, despite missing some time with a strained hamstring.
"I'd like to have a chance at finishing in Double-A this year or starting there next year," said Stephenson, who had a 4.2 grade point average at Alhambra High School in Martinez, Calif. He intended to go to the University of Washington before the Reds signed him for a $2 million bonus at the Aug. 15 deadline.
Bakersfield manager Ken Griffey Sr. has only watched Stephenson pitch for a short time -- three starts to be exact -- but likes what he sees.
"When someone can throw 100 miles per hour and averages 96 with his fastball, he certainly makes an impression," said Griffey, who played 19 years in the Majors. "He throws strikes and has control of his off-speed pitches."
Stephenson employed a split-finger fastball in high school, but the Reds didn't want him to throw that pitch in the pros. Instead, he features a curve and changeup as secondary offerings.
"The only scenario where they could see me using the split-finger fastball is if I was stuck below the Majors, and it was really necessary," said Stephenson.
Stephenson was bumped up to Bakersfield when Carlos Contreras, who had struck out 96 batters in 90 innings and limited opponents to a .215 batting average, was promoted to the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.
"He has electric stuff and gets good action on his curveball," said Blaze pitching coach Rigo Beltran, who noted Stephenson would've been promoted even if Contreras had not moved up.
A Google search noted Stephenson as a pitcher in American professional baseball. The picture associated with the description, however, was of a 19th-century British civil engineer with the same name who joined his father, George Stephenson, to design some of the early railroad locomotives.
None of those early locomotives could go nearly as fast as the Bakersfield pitcher's radar-tested 100 mph.
Vogelsong on the mend: San Francisco right-hander Ryan Vogelsong was placed on the 60-day disabled list in early June after fracturing the pinkie on his pitching hand. On July 26, he allowed two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings for the San Jose Giants, yielding a home run and striking out three against Stockton.
Ynoa bounces back: Michael Ynoa had trouble in his first three appearances with Stockton after the Oakland Athletics promoted him from Beloit in the Midwest League, giving up 16 earned runs in 9 2/3 innings over his first three starts. The fourth time proved the charm as the 6-foot-7 right-hander from the Dominican Republic allowed one hit and three walks while fanning six over 5 1/3 scoreless frames.
Moving up roundup: The Houston Astros promoted pitchers Jonus Dufek and Brady Rodgers from the Lancaster JetHawks to the Corpus Christi Hooks. Dufek, who struck out 54 in 48 1/3 innings with Lancaster, hasn't allowed a hit in his first two appearances with the Hooks. Rogers, who was 8-6 with 73 strikeouts and 17 walks in 87 1/3 innings for the JetHawks, earned a Double-A win after striking out six in five scoreless innings. ... Kenny Roberts and Ryan Buch were promoted from the Modesto Nuts to the Tulsa Drillers by the Colorado Rockies. Roberts had four saves for Modesto, striking out 44 and walking only nine in 55 1/3 innings. Buch has pitched for four different Minor League teams in four different leagues during the 2013 season.