Eight words changed things for Tony Cingrani on Friday. Those eight words could be the key to getting him to Triple-A and beyond.
The Reds' No. 11 prospect recorded nine strikeouts and gave up five hits over six innings for his first Double-A win as the Pensacola Blue Wahoos blanked the Birmingham Barons, 3-0.
Cingrani was on his game early, recording six of his first nine outs via strikeouts. He walked two while throwing 59 of 99 pitches for strikes in his second Southern League start.
"I was throwing the fastball in and out [of the zone] and I found my slider tonight," Cingrani said.
A third-round pick in last year's Draft, he credited Blue Wahoos pitching Tom Brown for helping him with his slider during a bullpen session earlier this week, saying the advice helped him "tremendously."
"Brown said one phrase to me and it made my slider start working how it's supposed to work," Cingrani said. "'Come across my face when I throw it.' It was crazy. I've never had command of my slider and today, I didn't throw it in the zone for a strike, but it had the action. It was a good two-strike pitch."
Cingrani heaped praise on his teammates for helping him notch his first win since being promoted from Class A Advanced Bakersfield.
"I'm pretty happy, everybody played well," the 22-year-old left-hander said. "[Ryan] LaMarre made a nice catch in the outfield and [shortstop] Didi [Gregorious] in the sixth made a nice play to save a run, it was pretty nice."
Overall, Cingrani is 6-1 with a 1.17 ERA in 12 starts across two levels. He's struck out 85 batters over 69 1/3 innings while limiting opponents to a .194 average. So it comes as no surprise when the Illinois native said he's feeling "pretty confident" right now.
"I always have confidence when I go out there," Cingrani said. "I think I'm better than the hitter every time I go out there. I just throw strikes and go after them."
Asked what he needs to work on to continue climbing the ladder in the Reds organization, he said, "Just my command of the slider and that's pretty much it. Just keep throwing my fastball the way I've been throwing it and I should be good."
Justin Freeman fanned four and allowed a hit over two innings before Drew Hayes tossed a hitless ninth for his first save.
Brodie Greene went 3-for-4 with a homer and two runs scored for the Blue Wahoos.