SEPTEMBER 22: Cincinnati activated Stephenson from the injured list before this afternoon’s game against the Pirates. That indicates he did not test positive for the coronavirus. Kolozsvary was optioned back to Louisville to clear active roster space but will retain his spot on the 40-man roster. To open 40-man space for Stephenson, the Reds transferred Tejay Antone from the 10-day to the 60-day IL. Antone underwent Tommy John surgery last month.
SEPTEMBER 20: The Reds announced they’ve selected catcher Mark Kolozsvary to the big league club. Fellow backstop Tyler Stephenson has been placed on the COVID-19 injured list in a corresponding move. Players on the COVID IL don’t count against the 40-man roster, so no additional moves were necessary.
A five-year minor league veteran, Kolozsvary is now in line for his first MLB opportunity. Selected in the seventh round of the 2017 draft out of the University of Florida, he struggled offensively early in his pro career but was off to his best start this season. Koloszvary hit .233/.341/.438 over 170 plate appearances with Double-A Chattanooga, popping six home runs and drawing walks at a strong 11.8% clip. The right-handed hitter fanned in 31.2% of his trips to the plate there, but he flashed enough power and patience to make a decent offensive impact.
Kolozsvary took a hiatus from his time in the Reds’ system to join the U.S. National Team at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. Somewhat ironically, he’s the second member of that team to get called up today, as the Indians are set to bring up outfielder-turned-reliever Anthony Gose as well. Kolozsvary went 4-21 in a brief look in international competition before returning to the Reds.
Cincinnati bumped Kolozsvary up to Triple-A Louisville last month. He hasn’t performed well in his first 53 plate appearances there, but will nevertheless get a chance to back up Tucker Barnhart while Stephenson’s unavailable. He gets that nod over Beau Taylor, a three-year big league veteran also at Louisville who’s already on the 40-man roster. Because Kolozsvary’s coming up to replace a player on the COVID IL, he can be removed from the 40-man and returned to the minors without being exposed to waivers. It could be a relatively short first stint then, but Kolozsvary would be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this offseason if he’s not on Cincinnati’s 40-man roster at that point.
It’s not clear whether Stephenson’s on the IL for a positive test or if he’s simply a close contact or feeling virus-like symptoms. One of the game’s most promising young backstops, Stephenson came up very briefly last season but has gotten his first extended big league look in 2021. He’s off to a strong start, hitting .279/.368/.420 with nine home runs over 368 plate appearances (109 wRC+). Cincinnati has fallen three games back of the division-rival Cardinals in the race for the National League’s last playoff spot, and an extended absence from Stephenson would obviously make their hopes of tracking St. Louis down over the season’s final two weeks that much more difficult.