Reds will give Tyler Stephenson time off from rigors of catching

Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer-USA TODAY NETWORK

The Reds want to make sure the 26-year-old is fresh and healthy enough to give them 140 to 150 games a year, even if there are fewer starts at his natural position behind the plate.

Tyler Stephenson was the Reds best hitter last year, but played only 50 games because of a series of injuries, including a concussion on a collision at the plate and a broken collarbone and broken thumb.

“He just had bad luck,” said second baseman Jonathan India, another one of the team’s young stars who was limited by injuries in 2022.

“There’s a lot of luck that comes with this game. He just didn’t get the right end of the stick. But he controls his attitude the best I’ve ever seen.”

As pitchers and catchers reported to the spring training facility in Goodyear, Arizona, last week, Reds manager David Bell said he’s planning for Stephenson to start around 65 games behind the plate and about 80 at first base or as DH. The manager even went through the schedule and mapped out a daily plan for Stephenson.

“It made the most sense,” Bell said. “I believe it was four out of 10 (catching),” Bell said. “It was about three at DH, two at first out of 10, and then one off-day.”

Stephenson has mixed feelings. He wants to continue to be known as a catcher, but he knows the plan makes sense for his longevity.

“I know it will give me more days of rest,” he said. “It’s going to be new territory for me. We’re going to adapt and see how it goes. I’m confident that it’s going to go well and I will feel fresher, and that will be a big thing going forward.”

To prepare, the Reds signed veteran catchers Curt Casali – who played for Cincinnati in 2018-2020 – and Luke Maile – to share catching duties.

Stephenson split time with veteran Tucker Barnhart in 2021 and became the No 1. catcher last season after Barnhart was traded to Detroit.

The Reds struggled offensively when Stephenson went out.

Joey Votto‘s status may determine where Stephenson will fit in the lineup when he’s not behind the plate. The 39-year-old first baseman/DH – entering the final year of a 10-year contract – had surgery in August for tears in both the rotator cuff and biceps in his left shoulder.

Votto is still rehabbing and it’s not clear if he’ll be ready to start the season. Stephenson has been working at first base to get ready to play there.

The three catchers will be expected to bring along a young pitching staff. The presumptive top three starters, Hunter Green, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft, all will be in just their second seasons.

“I’m hoping to be a part of this team for a long time,” Stephenson said. “The pieces are starting to align.”

Full squad spring training workouts began Monday. The Reds open the season March 30 at home against Pittsburgh.

Nationals blow 6-run lead, rebound to beat Phillies 8-7

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WASHINGTON (AP) Lane Thomas singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals sent the Philadelphia Phillies to their fifth straight loss, winning 8-7 after blowing a six-run lead.

The defending NL champion Phillies have just five victories in their last 18 games and are tied with the Nationals at the bottom of the NL East at 25-32.

“We’ve got to overcome it,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “We’ve got to play better, get consistent in all phases and keep moving forward.”

Alex Call drew a two-out walk against Connor Brogdon (2-1) in the eighth, stole second on a low pitch that catcher JT Realmuto couldn’t make a throw on and scored on Thomas’ single to right center.

“The way Lane’s swinging the bat, if you can get on second base, we can win the game,” Call said. “I look over and the ball’s in the dirt, he doesn’t catch it. Now I’m saying: ‘All right, Lane. Come on!’”

Kyle Finnegan (3-2) pitched 1 2/3 innings for the victory, stranding the tying run on second in the ninth.

Nick Castellanos homered twice, singled, doubled and drove in five runs for Philadelphia, which had scored just three runs in its past three games.

“There’s definitely a lot of positives as a group,” Castellanos said. “Showing some fight. It would have been really, really easy to lay down and allow the way the game started to be the way that it finished.”

Down 7-1 after four innings, Philadelphia tied it at 7 in the eighth. Brandon Marsh worked a nine-pitch walk against Mason Thompson leading off, and Drew Ellis singled with one out. Finnegan came on to face Kyle Schwarber, who hit a ground ball up the middle. Shortstop CJ Abrams fielded it behind it behind second base, touched second for one out, but threw wildly to first and Marsh came home with the tying run.

Castellanos’s second homer, a two-run shot to center in the sixth, pulled the Phillies to 7-3 and Marsh added an RBI single in the inning.

In the seventh, Schwarber doubled with one out and Bryson Scott reached on an infield single. Hunter Harvey came on and walked Bryce Harper to load the bases. Castellanos singled to center scoring two runs to make it 7-6.

Luis Garcia homered and Jeimer Candelario doubled twice and drove in three runs for the Nationals, who have won seven of 12.

Philadelphia starter Zack Wheeler, coming off eight shutout innings against Atlanta, allowed seven runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

“This one’s on me really,” Wheeler said. “Guys battled back. Just couldn’t finish it out. We know who we have in this room and what we’ve got to do.”

Josiah Gray gave up four runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings for Washington.

Candelario doubled just beyond the reach of left fielder Schwarber to drive in the first of Washington’s two runs in the first.

In the second, Abrams hit a one-out drive to deep center that Marsh misplayed into a double. With two outs and two on, Candelario doubled off the wall in right center to make it 5-0.

Garcia ended Wheeler’s night with a solo homer in the fourth.

“When you come out the way we did, you’ve got to tack on,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “It didn’t happen tonight, but we got one more than the other guys.”


Candelario is 9 for 26 (.346) with four doubles, a home run, nine RBIs, five walks, and seven runs scored in his last seven games.


Phillies: Thomson said RHP Taijuan Walker played catch Friday and there are “no worries about his next start.” In a four-inning outing against the Mets on Thursday, Walker’s sinker velocity averaged 90.6 mph, down from 92.7 mph for the season. His fastball, splitter and curveball velocity also dropped.

Nationals: OF Victor Robles (back spasms) took batting practice on the field for the first time since going on the injured list. … LHP Sean Doolittle (elbow) gave up a run on two hits and struck out two batters in 2/3 of an inning working his second straight night for Class A Fredericksburg.


Phillies: LHP Matt Strahm (4-3, 3.20) will start a bullpen game on Saturday.

Nationals: LHP MacKenzie Gore (3-3, 3.57) went seven innings and struck out a career-high 11 batters in his previous outing – a no decision against the Royals.

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