It was probably the best bad news Robert Stephenson ever had to deliver.
His girlfriend was set to arrive the next day in Billings and his parents already had arranged their own trip to Montana. But Stephenson had to tell them to change their plans because his time in the Pioneer League was over -- he'd been promoted.
The Reds' No. 3 prospect gave up an unearned run on one hit and struck out six over five innings in his Midwest League debut Friday night as Dayton beat Great Lakes, 7-5.
"The last game was in Grand Junction and they called me into the office, told me they were sending me up. I didn't really know it was coming," Stephenson said. "It also kind of [stunk] a little bit because my girlfriend was coming the next day and my parents had their flight out booked. But, yeah, it was mostly awesome."
Selected 27th overall in last year's Draft, Stephenson (1-0) began his pro career when he debuted for the Mustangs on June 19. He did not allow more than two earned runs in any of his seven Pioneer League starts, posting a 2.05 ERA and 37 strikeouts against eight walks over 30 2/3 innings.
The 19-year-old out of Alhambra High School in Martinez, Calif., has found early success thanks to a fastball that hits triple digits. He managed another first Friday night, touching 101 mph on the radar gun at the Dow Diamond.
"I was told I touched 101. I've touched 100 but not 101 before," he said. "I didn't really know the hitters [at this level], so I just went after them with that fastball and tried to get ahead."
Against the Loons, Stephenson said it was his curveball, however, that worked most effectively as an out pitch. He struck out the side in the opening inning, finishing off two of the three batters with the curve.
"I thought the curveball was pretty much the out pitch for me [tonight]," he said. "Fastball was probably my best pitch [overall] and the changeup was all right."
The right-hander was working on a 70-pitch limit as the Reds try to manage his workload during his first pro season. But he was efficient enough to get through five innings and put himself in line for the win.
Stephenson said he was satisfied with the start but found details to critique. He issues a pair of walks after allowing one or fewer in five of his season starts for Billings.
"I was a little bit nervous, mostly excited though," he said. "It definitely felt good. Just a little bit upset with the two walks, but other than that, I was pretty happy with [the outing]."
Offensively, Reds' No. 12 prospect Sean Buckley went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs. Leadoff man Juan Perez also had three hits, including a triple, and drove in a run.