Playing catcher is hard enough. Manning the position during the Florida summer is even tougher. Just don't tell that to Tyler Stephenson.
The eighth-ranked Reds prospect went deep twice and matched career highs with four hits and five RBIs to help Class A Advanced Daytona rally past Bradenton, 9-6, on Thursday night at LECOM Park.
The first multi-homer game of Stephenson's career enabled him to equal his personal best for RBIs, set on May 16, 2018 with Class A Dayton.
"I got off to a really good start this year," Stephenson said. "But it's hard to keep it going. It's a long year full of so many ups and downs. I just really am trying to stick to the plan as consistently as I can. Everything has been there for me pretty much all season, but we all go through some down times."
Gameday box score
Stephenson flied to center field leading off the second inning but singled to left in the fourth to give him hits in nine of his last 11 games. Daytona trailed, 4-0, entering the sixth, but the 21-year-old slugged a two-run shot to center that halved the deficit. He singled to center in the eighth and capped the Tortugas' five-run ninth with a three-run homer to left-center. The blast completed the backstop's second career four-hit game and first since July 18, 2016 with Dayton.
"It's always nice to contribute," Stephenson said. "We fell behind early but held them to it and just battled back before that big ninth inning. It was a good win and a big one for us, which is what I'm most happy about. But personally, I'm trying to keep it simple. The later you get into the season -- especially as a catcher -- there are some days you feel good and other days, not so much. Everything was working tonight, though."
Stephenson got off to a scorching start during his first month in the Florida State League, batting .351/.440/.519 with eight extra-base hits and 15 RBIs in 21 games in April. However, the 11th overall pick in the 2015 Draft hit .216 through May and June. As the calendar flipped to July, Stephenson reverted back to his early-season form. The Atlanta native pushed his slash line this month to .344/.406/.541 with six extra-base hits, including three homers, and 12 RBIs through 17 games.
Overall, Stephenson is hitting .282/.361/.451 with a career-high 10 homers in 76 games. After making his professional debut with Rookie-level Billings in 2015, he was limited by injuries to 124 games over the next two seasons, including 80 contests last year with Class A Dayton before a torn ligament in his left thumb ended his season on July 15.
"I'm a bigger guy and I'm still growing," the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder said of his increased power. "I'm 21 and still not at my maximum strength. Our hitting coach [Alex Pelaez] has been great with me this year. He's been working with me to find a consistency to hit the ball hard. As I get older and stronger, more of those balls will start carrying out. I'm up there trying to hit the ball as hard as I can and if they happen to go over the fence every so often, that's great."
Ibandel Isabel's FSL-leading 20th homer gave the 23-year-old consecutive 20-homer campaigns. He reached the seats 28 times last year with Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga in the Dodgers system.
Daytona starter Tommy Bergjans allowed four runs -- three earned -- on six hits and a walk with two strikeouts in six innings. Ty Boyles (3-6) earned the win with 1 2/3 perfect frames.
Brett Pope singled twice and collected three RBIs for Bradenton.
Marauders starter Gavin Wallace surrendered three runs on six hits and a walk while fanning four in seven frames. Blake Cederlind (0-1) was charged with five runs on three hits and four walks in 1 2/3 innings.