BOZICH: Hard To Believe Reds Have 5 Better Starters Than Cingran - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH: Hard To Believe Reds Have 5 Better Starters Than Cingrani

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Bats' pitcher Tony Cingrani has not allowed a run in more than 19 innings this season in AAA. Bats' pitcher Tony Cingrani has not allowed a run in more than 19 innings this season in AAA.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The last major-league hitter that Tony Cingrani faced was Ryan Howard. He is a former Most Valuable Player in the National League. Howard will earn $20 million from the Philadelphia Phillies this season.

Cingrani struck Howard out. Just as he struck out another Philadelphia all-star, Chase Utley, two batters earlier. This happened last Friday night.

After leaving Philadelphia, Cingrani's next pitch was a 90 mph fastball to Jackie Bradley Jr. of the Pawtucket Red Sox Thursday night at Louisville Slugger Field. That was followed by a 94 mph fastball. And then another fastball at 96 mph.

Big leagues, minor leagues, Little League, it doesn't appear to matter. Same result as Ryan Howard or Chase Utley. Strike one. Strike two. Strike three.

If the Cincinnati Reds have five better starting pitchers than Tony Cingrani, then I'm Derek Jeter. He is lean left-handed pitcher who wears his socks high and keeps his fastball low. Cingrani's delivery has the smooth, rhythmic flow of Barry Zito in his prime. His breaking ball is not as sharp as Zito's. But his fastball carries more sizzle. Cingrani is the type of pitching prospect that agents will be scrambling to represent.        

Evidently somebody with the Cincinnati Reds does not agree – yet.

After winning twice without a defeat in six starts with the Reds, Cingrani returned to the Louisville Bats this week.

"I never expected to stay with Cincinnati," Cingrani said. "I knew I'd be back (in Louisville) when Johnny (Cueto) got healthy."

What I know is this: Baseball fans in Louisville will benefit from Cincinnati's old-fashioned decision to send the young guy (Cingrani's 23) back to Triple A because until the Reds move a veteran out of the way, he is going to pitch for the Bats.

That is going to be a pleasure to watch because Cingrani can throw a baseball as masterfully as anybody has thrown it in Louisville since … Homer Bailey? Todd Worrell? Joe Magrane?

Magrane, a former Louisville Redbird and St. Louis Cardinal, was the comparison that Bats' manager Jim Riggleman went to after Cingrani pitched five shutout innings as the Bats defeated Pawtucket, 10-0. He allowed two hits – and four walks. It was the walks, not the hits, that made Cingrani grimace during a post-game interview.

"It was an all-right performance," he said. "Just not throwing enough strikes."

Write these numbers down: Cingrani has now pitched 19 1/3 innings in Triple A. He has allowed five hits and six walks while striking out 31.

Home plate might as well be at Churchill Downs for visiting teams. Cingrani has not allowed a run.

Cingrani did allow some runs during his six major-league starts – but not many. His numbers with the Reds (3.27 earned run average; .212 opponents' batting average) suggest that Cingrani is going to be a superb major-league pitcher. Some of his big-league numbers (strikeouts, opponents' batting average) were better than several veterans in manager Dusty Baker's rotation.

What did Riggleman tell Cingrani when he returned from the world of charter flights?

"You're doing fine," Riggleman said.  "You're on a nice pace to really help the Reds. You've helped us already and you're going to help us in the future."

The primary negative is that Cingrani allowed seven home runs in only 33 innings. No Cincinnati pitcher allowed more. Velocity is not the magic formula for big-league success unless you can overwhelm hitters with a fastball the way Aroldis Chapman does. Cingrani throws hard, just not Chapman hard.

"It was awesome (being in the big leagues)," Cingrani said. "It's the best place to learn. Taught me don't throw pitches down the middle or they'll hit them for a home run. You've got to switch speeds on them. They'll adjust to you if you don't adjust to them."

"Those guys can hit anything that's under 100 miles per hour if they see it enough times and it doesn't have any movement," Bats pitching coach Ted Power said. "To make that fastball better, you've got to be able to throw something off-speed on the plate."

That is what Cingrani is here to learn in Louisville. How to throw a more deceptive change up. How to throw a breaking ball that slips over the edge of the plate. Earlier this season only 10-to-15 percent of Cingrani's pitches were curveballs or sliders. Thursday night the percentage was closer to 25 percent.

So when does Cingrani expect to return to Cincinnati?

"I have no idea," he said. "We'll see what happens."

I think we've already seen what happens when Tony Cingrani pitches in AAA.

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