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Southern notes: Reds' Cingrani a steal

Pensacola left-hander continues to dominate after promotion
August 6, 2012
Cincinnati gave up two good pitching prospects to acquire reliever Jonathan Broxton from Kansas City, but the Reds made sure one of them wasn't Tony Cingrani.

Pensacola teammate Daniel Corcino is the Reds' No. 1 pitching prospect, and's list at the time of the deal had the departed J.C. Sulbaren and Donnie Joseph slightly ahead of the left-hander.

But with his success since being taken in the third round of the 2011 Draft, Cingrani remains as intriguing as any pitcher in Cincinnati's Minor League system.

"He gets a lot of swings and misses," Pensacola manger Jim Riggleman said.

Cingrani had 15 strikeouts over eight innings against Jackson on June 27 in his fifth start for the Blue Wahoos after his promotion from Class A Advanced Bakersfield and has been putting up eye-catching numbers ever since signing with the Reds.

It's hard to believe this is the same pitcher who saw little action as a junior at Rice University after transferring from a junior college. He struggled at the start of his senior year as well before moving to the bullpen.

But Cingrani flourished in that new role and has kept the same mentality he developed as a closer in his return to the rotation in the Minors. The 23-year-old has a simple but effective approach.

"I just try to throw it hard and to a spot," the native of suburban Chicago said. "For the most part, I hit my spots. I elevate the ball and move it in and out. When they swing, they usually miss. That's basically it."

Cingrani's fastball doesn't light up radar guns, usually sitting around 93 mph. But that's enough when he complements it with a good changeup and developing slider.

The 6-foot-4 Pensacola ace struck out 80 and walked only six while posting a 1.75 ERA in 51 1/3 innings with Billings of the rookie Pioneer League last season. You would think it would be impossible to match those numbers with the move up in competition, but Cingrani has done it.

In 21 combined starts with Bakersfield and Pensacola, the 23-year-old is 10-4 with a 1.57 ERA and has 137 strikeouts to 38 walks in 120 1/3 innings. He has given up just 82 hits for a .193 batting average against.

Cingrani, now ranked as the Reds' No. 7 prospect, certainly hasn't had any trouble adjusting to being a starter again. But that wasn't the role he expected when the Reds selected him.

"I thought I was getting drafted as a reliever," said Cingrani. "But once I sat down with my Reds scout, he said they wanted me as a starter. So they began to build me up and I was on my way."

Cingrani uses his height to good advantage, and his delivery helps him slip his fastball by flailing hitters.

"They miss pitches in the strike zone and out of the strike zone," Riggleman said.

Continued development of his slider will determine if Cingrani remains a starter or moves back to the bullpen in the future. But the pitch has been effective against lefty hitters, and Cingrani has the changeup as his primary second pitch against righties.

The three hits he allowed to Jackson in his 15-strikeout game came after the seventh inning, and he followed that effort up by not allowing an earned run in his next three starts.

Over the four straight victories, Cingrani scattered 11 hits and an unearned run.

Concerned about the buildup of innings in Cingrani's first full season after a seven-inning complete game July 13 at Chattanooga, the Reds had him skip his next start and he lost his last two outings in July. But he bounced back to pitch five scoreless frames in a no-decision at Huntsville on Saturday.

Cingrani was 5-3 with a 1.98 ERA for Pensacola after going 5-1 with a 1.18 ERA in the usually hitter-friendly California League with Bakersfield. No wonder the Reds wanted to make sure to hold on to him.

Cingrani was the 114th overall pick in the 2011 Draft and received a bonus of just $210,000 as a college senior with no bargaining leverage. And while Billy Hamilton is drawing all the attention with Pensacola as he goes for the Minor League stolen base record, Cingrani might be a steal as well.

In brief

Run, Billy, run: Pensacola shortstop Billy Hamilton stole three bases for the second time in three games Sunday at Huntsville, running his season total to 125. Cincinnati's No. 1 prospect had 21 steals in 26 attempts for the Blue Wahoos after swiping 104 bases in 125 attempts for Bakersfield. Hamilton, No. 26 among's Top 100 Prospects, is pursuing the Minor League record of 145 steals set by Vince Coleman for Class A Macon in 1983.

Streak over at 46: Hak-Ju Lee's team-record on-base streak for Montgomery came to an end after 46 games as the Biscuits were held to two hits in a 1-0 loss at Jacksonville on Saturday. Lee, who was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, had last failed to reach base June 11 against Chattanooga and had set a Montgomery record with a 21-game hitting streak during the stretch. The shortstop is Tampa Bay's No. 1 prospect and ranks No. 35 on's Top 100 list.

Quick impression: Shortstop Jean Segura was called up to Milwaukee after batting .433 with four stolen bases in his first eight games for Huntsville after being acquired from the Angels in the Zach Grienke trade. Pitchers Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena were also obtained in the deal and sent to Huntsville, with Hellweg getting a victory in his first start. Segura, who was batting .294 with 33 stolen bases for Double-A Arkansas of the Texas League, immediately became the Brewers' No. 1 prospect. He is No. 38 on's Top 100 List.

Brawl aftermath: Four Mississippi players and two from Mobile drew three-game suspensions after the benches-clearing melee in the ninth inning of a game at Mississippi on July 28. Suspended were catcher Christian Bethancourt, infielder Alden Carrithers and relief pitchers Cory Rasmus and Mike Tarsi of Mississippi, as well as catcher Rossmel Perez and outfielder Alfredo Marte of Mobile. Seven players were hit by pitches during the game and the brawl broke out after Perez's hard slide into Tarsi at the plate.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to