In his season debut, Jordan Stephens focused primarily on one bit of advice: do not shake off batterymate Alfredo Gonzalez. The 24-year-old didn't, and the results speak for themselves.Stephens came off the disabled list and allowed one hit over six scoreless innings on Saturday in his Double-A debut for Birmingham,
In his season debut, Jordan Stephens focused primarily on one bit of advice: do not shake off batterymate Alfredo Gonzalez. The 24-year-old didn't, and the results speak for themselves.
Stephens came off the disabled list and allowed one hit over six scoreless innings on Saturday in his Double-A debut for Birmingham, which squandered a six-run lead before walking off with a 7-6 win over Chattanooga on Saturday night at Regions Field.
Gameday box score
Although the Lookouts' comeback denied the No. 14 White Sox prospect a win, he was just happy to be back on the mound. Stephens had been on the DL since the start of the season with tendinitis in his right forearm.
"I didn't really have any jitters tonight, but I did yesterday," the right-hander said. "But once they started playing the national anthem, that really gets the blood going. It also helped to have a catcher who had caught the previous two games [against Chattanooga]. He knew what to do and so whatever [signs] he was putting down, I was throwing."
With his catcher guiding him, Stephens allowed only a first-inning walk to Twins No. 13 prospect LaMonte Wade Jr over the first 4 1/3 frames. T.J. White singled with one out in the fifth for Chattanooga's first hit and an error by first baseman Cameron Seitzer put two runners on, but Stephens got a groundout and a strikeout to keep the Lookouts off the scoreboard.
The Rice product set Chattanooga down in order in the sixth. He walked one and fanned six while throwing 58 of 87 pitches for strikes.
"Being my first start, I pretty much just went out there and pitched. There was nothing really special or exact to it," the Houston native said. "Gonzalez is one of those catchers who expects you to throw what he calls for. He doesn't want you to shake him off. I worked with him in Spring Training several times, so we were pretty much on the same page all night."
A 2015 fifth-round pick, Stephens burst on the scene last year, his first full season as a professional. Following 11 appearances the year before, he posted a 3.45 ERA and led the organization and the Carolina League with 155 strikeouts over 141 innings for Class A Advanced Winston-Salem.
"I had a good year [in 2016], but I wasn't happy with the walks, especially in the beginning of the season," said Stephens, who issued 48 free passes last season. "In Spring Training and during my rehab starts this year, I've kept them under control.
"I got to play with and against a lot of these guys during the spring and in [Class A Advanced]. Many of them haven't seen me throw yet, so there's always some pressure to prove your worth."
Eddy Alvarez and Hunter Jones had three hits apiece, while Gonzalez delivered a three-run double for the Barons, who had a 6-0 lead after seven innings. The Lookouts sent 11 men to the plate in the eighth, tying the game on White's two-out single.
Mason Robbins' singled home Jeff Gelalich with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to give Birmingham to its third win in four games.
Michael Avallone is a contributor to MiLB.com. Followhim on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB.