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Cingrani made transitions look easy

Reds prospect posted 1.75 ERA in 13 Pioneer League starts
October 26, 2011
Boasting textbook mechanics and a smooth, flowing delivery, Reds prospect Tony Cingrani made the transition from college reliever to professional starter look effortless.

A third-round selection out of Rice University in June's Draft, the 6-foot-4 southpaw was slotted immediately into the rotation at Rookie-level Billings and looked like he belonged there all along.

Brennan Smith, Connecticut

Brennan Smith posted a New York-Penn League-leading 1.53 ERA in 14 starts for the Connecticut Tigers. The 22-year-old right-hander tossed two complete games, including a five-hit shutout over Hudson Valley on Aug. 30 that extended his scoreless streak to 30 innings. The Ohio native was third in the league with a 1.01 WHIP, earning a trip to the league's All-Star contest in August.
Cingrani was kept on a short leash after pitching 57 innings in college, going 3-2 in 13 Pioneer League starts. His 1.75 ERA would have led the league if he had enough innings to qualify, but he still ranked fourth with 80 strikeouts.

"I thought it went really well. There were some good points and some rocky points, I guess, but everything was about learning," Cingrani said. "I was glad that I was in Billings, it was a really good starting point for my pro career. It went well."

With a fastball that hovers in the low-to-mid 90s and tops out around 97 mph, a slider and a changeup, Cingrani began well and gained strength as the summer wore on.

He was scored upon just once in his first six pro starts and surrendered more than one earned run only twice. Limited to four innings or fewer in his first six weeks with the Mustangs, Cingrani finished on a high note by earning victories in each of his last three regular-season outings.

"I threw a lot of fastballs in there for strikes, I threw my changeup for strikes and I never really got beat with my slider," the Illinois native said. "I mixed in my fastball and changeup a lot, so I worked off that. My changeup is really good, but my slider is a work in progress. It's all I've really worked on in instructs, but it's coming along. I'm throwing it a little bit harder and with a little bit tighter spin. We've been working hard on it."

According to Billings pitching coach Bob Forsch, Cingrani has a big upside.

"He throws around 93 with good movement, and what I mean by that is that there's good tail on his fastball. He can spot it to both sides of the plate, which really helps because he can get in on right-handed hitters," said Forsch, who pitched in the big leagues from 1974-89. "There are a lot of kids that can throw hard but can't make quality pitches down in the zone. He was able to do that right out of the gate.

"His breaking pitches are still works in progress. In order for him to get to the next level, he has to throw them behind in the count. That is how you become a Major League pitcher."

In his first pro win, a 3-1 victory over visiting Casper on Aug. 27, Cingrani recorded a career-high 13 strikeouts over six hitless innings. He followed up that performance with a win at Helena five days later, then wrapped up his season by fanning 10 over six shutout innings against Missoula on Sept. 6.

The success came from the combination of a lively fastball, a deceptive delivery and excellent command on both sides of the plate.

"I had a really long arm when I was younger," explained Cingrani, who went 4-2 with a team-best 1.74 ERA and 12 saves in his senior year with the Owls. "When I went to Rice, we switched it up a little and moved it to where it was up. We moved my glove a little bit higher, so that added a little bit of deception because my glove is above my face, where my release point is. That hides the ball a little bit. I have always had smooth mechanics through my legs. I guess it just kind of happened.

The transition from the bullpen in college to the starting rotation in the Minor Leagues was not a difficult one, he said.

"I just took my closing mentality and took that out there with me," Cingrani added. "They started me off with two innings and built me back up until I could go five or six innings and get in line for a decision."

"He has a really smooth delivery," Forsch noted. "It is deceptive, but as smooth as it is, it's quick, too. The ball gets on the hitter a lot sooner than they think. He has some real talent. He wasn't really challenged this year ... it seemed pretty easy for him. I hope to watch him on TV, let's put it like that. I have seen a lot of young pitchers come up, and he has some natural ability."

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to