Reds Land Power Arm In Stephenson At No. 27





CINCINNATI—Reds general manager Walt Jocketty gave a draft preview a couple of day before the draft:

"Sometimes you draft college players because you need that influx of players who get here sooner," Jocketty said. "We're kind of at a nice place. Sometimes it depends on where you're at as an organization. We're at a point now where we could probably draft more high school kids. We have a lot guys at the higher end. It really gets down to who's available."

True to that, the Reds went with a high school player in the first round of the the draft for the first time in four years. They selected Robert Stephenson, a righthander from Martinez, Calif., in the first round.

"We're very excited," scouting director Chris Buckley said. "He's a very outstanding high school projection pitcher. He's got a loose, live arm. We saw him as high as 98 this year. He'll fill out and get strong. Curveball, slider, changeup."

The Reds, picking 27th overall, decided they could wait for Stephenson to develop. Again, they are pretty well stocked in the upper minors.

"To pick the kid in the first round we obviously like him a lot," Buckley said. "He has very good upside. He has good projection to his frame. He throws hard now. He should throw harder when he gets bigger and stronger. We're real excited."

Baseball America rated Stephenson as the 25th best player in the draft. He was 7-2 with a 1.61 ERA for his Alhambra High team. He struck out 132 and walked 23 in 64 innings.

He started the year with back-to-back no-hitters.

Stephenson has signed a letter-of-intent with the University of Washington. But the Reds are confident he'll sign.

The Reds were picking later in the first round than they ever have. Obviously, what happened above them affected what they did.

"We missed some for sure," Buckley said. "The good thing about picking at 27th is it means you have a good team. But there were some players we would have picked."

Red Hots

• Righthander Drew Cisco, the Reds' sixth-round pick in last year's draft, had Tommy John surgery. Cisco was in extended spring training when the injury occurred. The Reds paid him a $975,000 signing bonus.

• Lefthander Dontrelle Willis returned to the Triple-A Louisville rotation after missing two weeks with a groin issues. He went 4 2/3 shutout innings in his return. He allowed three hits, walked three and struck out seven.