GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Possibly the next young pitching sensation to rise all the way through the organization, Reds top prospect Robert Stephenson is learning all he can during his first big league camp.
Stephenson was named last month by MLBPipeline.com as baseball's No. 19 overall prospect and the No. 7 right-handed pitcher. He was the Reds' first-round Draft pick (No. 27 overall) in 2011.
"It's been a great experience so far," said Stephenson, in camp as a non-roster invite. "I've gotten to meet the guys and the coaches and been able to work with them. It's something that definitely helps me for the future."
In 22 starts combined at Class A Dayton, Class A Bakersfield and Pensacola last season, Stephenson was 7-7 with 2.99 ERA. Over 114 1/3 innings, he gave up 92 hits, 35 walks while striking out 136. He routinely throws 96-98 mph and is capable of touching 100.
Stephenson, 21, is likely to begin the 2014 season at Pensacola, but can't be ruled out for a big league callup before the year is done.
"That's definitely the goal for this year for me. I want to do anything it takes to get there," Stephenson said.
Stephenson debuted this spring in the sixth inning Friday against the Indians. After notching two quick outs, he had trouble closing out the inning. After a two-out walk and a single with two strikes, he had Carlos Moncrief in a 0-2 count and allowed a RBI single to right field. A second run scored when there was a throwing error on the play.
"It was my first one. It was fun and good to have it out of the way now," Stephenson said. "I was pushing stuff out. I was trying to work on my two-seamer and I started it on the corner and it was running off of the plate. It's something I want to work on. I was just kind of missing outside a little when I walked that guy and the inning just sped up for me."
Stephenson is among the pitchers scheduled to work Monday, when the Reds play the Mariners.
"I just need to work on consistency," Stephenson said. "There are days when I do everything right and feel like I can pitch up there. There are other days when I feel inconsistent and couldn't get an A-ball hitter out."
Leake doesn't expect to miss another start
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Reds starting pitcher Mike Leake was optimistic on Sunday morning that he would only miss one start because of a minor abdominal strain.
"I'll probably start my normal routine [Monday]," Leake said. "I will just take it like this was my game day and start my normal routine."
Leake was scheduled to face the Padres on Sunday afternoon, but was scratched Saturday and replaced by Brett Marshall. He hasn't been throwing the past couple of days and the club wanted to take extra precaution.
"We just didn't want to chance this start being the one that set us back even more," Leake said. "So we decided to eat this one and go to the next one."
Leake, 26, was 14-7 with a 3.37 ERA in 2013 and set career highs in wins and with 192 1/3 innings and 31 starts.
It was sometime last month when Leake first felt the strain during an offseason abdominal workout.
"I thought it was just going to go away, but it ended up not," Leake said. "I think I just overexerted it a little bit."
Pena leaves early impression on Price
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Reds manager Bryan Price was pleased with Saturday's spring catching debut of free-agent acquisition Brayan Pena, who caught five innings against the Rockies.
Pena, who was the designated hitter in Wednesday's Cactus League opener, had been spending extra time working on his defensive skills.
"It was great to see Brayan behind the plate," Price said Sunday. "He's really worked hard on his defense and his throwing. It's been a real nice commitment from him to continue to improve. He's 32, he's an established player, a good player. We got him here on a two-year deal. We expect him to play fairly regularly and so the work ethic, his energy, his life to his body has been great."
When there were no runners on base, Pena set up in an unusual crouch with his right leg pointed sideways. It was reminiscent of the style of Tony Pena or Benito Santiago.
"I think sometimes it just allows you to really emphasize where you want the pitch," Price said. "It's a situation where you want the ball down in the zone, that lower than low emphasis. I don't think that would be my personal stance as a left-handed catcher."