Tyler Stephenson pinch-hitter; Jose Barrero

Aug 15, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson (37) celebrates his two-run home run in the dugout during the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS – Tyler Stephenson possesses a special skill where he can affect games when he’s out of the lineup almost as if he was a starter.

Stephenson, the Reds’ rookie catcher, has been one of the better pinch-hitters in the league. He’s 9-for-35 in those situations this season (.257 batting average) with two doubles, three homers and a league-high 12 RBI.

There are nine players with more hits as a pinch-hitter than Stephenson, and six have received more at-bats than him.

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“It says a lot about Tyler because pinch-hitting is difficult,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It’s a personality thing more than anything. Guys that I’ve seen that are really good at pinch-hitting are confident, they have a routine, they don’t get rattled too easy, they stay pretty consistent in their personality and approach.

“Tyler is definitely all of that.”

Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson (37) hits a home run in the seventh inning of the MLB Interleague game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Minnesota Twins at Great American Ball Park in downtown Cincinnati on Wednesday, August 4, 2021.

Stephenson is often the Reds’ top option when they’re looking for a right-handed bat off the bench. He’s naturally out of the lineup at least a few times a week as he splits time at catcher with Tucker Barnhart, though he has done some pregame work in left field to put himself in consideration for playing time there.

When he enters the game as a substitute, as a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement, he’s hitting .295 with a .360 on-base percentage. Of course, he’s an above-average hitter when he’s in the starting lineup, but he can make pinch-hit opportunities look much easier than they are.

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