Tony Cingrani was wearing a new uniform, pitching at a higher level and playing in an unfamiliar city on Sunday. But surrounded by a few familiar faces, everything was business as usual for the Reds prospect.
Cingrani allowed two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out five over 6 2/3 innings in his Double-A debut as the Pensacola Blue Wahoos fell to the Jacksonville Suns, 5-4.
Cincinnati's No. 11 prospect left in the seventh with a 2-0 lead and runners on the corners. But reliever Drew Hayes allowed three consecutive singles to take Cingrani out of line for the win.
"It was pretty good until about the sixth inning. Then a couple fastballs got hit the other way," the 2011 third-round Draft pick said. "I didn't really have my off-speed pitches until the fourth, but I was using my fastball in and out, and that worked. Maybe it was adrenaline. It just wasn't coming out of my hand well. I had to revert back to what had been working in the past."
Cingrani set the side down in order in the first and stranded runners at the corners in the second. He faced just one over the minimum over the next three innings and was handed a lead when Pensacola used four straight singles and a groundout to push across a pair of runs in the fifth.
The third of those four hits came off the bat of Cingrani, a most unlikely source of offense.
"I just bunted at the first pitch and caught the second baseman by surprise," he said. "It was pretty fun. In my first at-bat, I made contact on a couple pitches but ended up striking out. That will happen often."
The last time Cingrani recorded a hit?
"Seven years ago," he said without hesitation. "I was a sophomore at [Lincoln-Way Central] High School."
The 22-year-old left-hander worked around Paul Gran's one-out single in the sixth but was not as fortunate in the seventh.
After retiring the first two batters, he gave up a single to Donnie Webb, who took second in right fielder Andrew Means' throwing error. Jose Duarte followed with an infield hit, bringing Cingrani's Southern League debut to an end.
"I definitely felt strong enough," said Cingrani, who threw 63 of 99 pitches for strikes. "I got the first two outs, but I made a couple mistake pitches and they got some base hits. The error is whatever and the base hit moved him over [to third], but it didn't matter in the end because the next couple base hits would have scored them, regardless.
"I definitely wanted to stay in. I would rather stay in the game than hand it over to someone else."
In his second year of pro ball, Cingrani has found success at each of his previous two stops. He was 3-2 with a 1.75 ERA and 80 strikeouts over 51 1/3 innings with Rookie-level Billings last year and was leading the hitter-friendly California League with a 1.11 ERA in 10 starts before his promotion from Bakersfield.
Asked about the differences at Double, Cingrani, said, "Not too much. Nothing, really. They basically were the same type of hitters, just better and sitting on more fastballs. It's a step up from Bakersfield, but the facilities are better here. Bakersfield was a good step for me, but this is better. I'd much rather be throwing here."
It also helps that Cingrani is among friends with the Blue Wahoos.
"I pretty much knew everyone on the team from Spring Training, so it wasn't hard to get settled in here," he said. "I was also at the Futures Game last year with some of them, so it was pretty easy. I arrived two days ago when they were still in Jackson, then met up with them [Saturday]."
Pensacola's Donnie Joseph retired two batters and was charged with two runs -- one earned -- on a hit and two walks. Ryan LaMarre went 3-for-4, scored twice and drove in a run in the losing effort.
A.J. Ramos (3-0) got the win out of the Jacksonville bullpen, despite giving up a run on four hits over two innings. Suns starter Jose Alvarez allowed two runs and scattered nine hits in 5 1/3 frames.