Billings left-hander Tony Cingrani
doesn't really look the part of a power pitcher, especially when he winds up to throw.
But Cincinnati's third-round pick from the 2011 Draft has nevertheless parlayed a smooth, effortless delivery into a sparkling start to his professional career.
And boy, can he bring it.
"It's taken a long time to get to this point. My arm is pretty strong, and I try to let everything flow," said Cingrani, whose fastball has topped out at 97 mph. "I'm not a max-effort guy. If you try to throw harder than you actually can, you probably aren't going to throw too many strikes.
"I just let my body work, and preparation allows me to do that."
Cingrani seems more than comfortable with the Mustangs, owning a 2.70 ERA in five starts. He has 18 strikeouts to only one walk in 13 1/3 innings -- a ratio of more than 12 K's per nine innings.
On top of that, Cingrani (0-1) hasn't allowed a run in four of his five starts.
His fastball is deceptively good, clocked consistently this season in the low to mid-90s as he's continued to build up his velocity.
"The ball gets on the hitter quicker than they think. It's a nice, easy delivery," Mustangs manager Pat Kelly said. "The ball seems to jump that last 20 feet."
Cingrani called his July 17 loss to Ogden "a bump in the road," and that's probably a fair assessment. The Raptors handed the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder his only defeat during a 5-1 victory at Dehler Park, but the indomitable Cingrani took it in stride afterward.
"It wasn't anything terrible," he said. "I was still throwing well. Things are going pretty good so far."
A starter for most of his collegiate career, Cingrani served as Rice's closer for the 2011 campaign, racking up 12 saves. He went 4-2 with a 1.74 ERA in 57 innings.
That performance bolstered his stock, and scouts were impressed with his versatility entering the Draft.
Chris Buckley, the Reds' senior director of amateur scouting, previously told MLB.com that Cingrani was "one of his 'gut-feel guys,'" and the team jumped at the chance to draft him in the third round.
Still, Cingrani wasn't nearly as effective the year before, accumulating an ERA of 8.59 in six outings. His struggles as a starter led him to consider transferring from Rice.
"I asked them if they wanted me back because of the year I had, because it wasn't very good," he said. "If I didn't play for them, I would have gone somewhere else."
Cingrani said he worked to tweak his mechanics and that his arm and lower body became synched. That allowed him to throw with more velocity and be more consistent in the strike zone.
Kelly likes the ease with which Cingrani throws -- not to mention the way he mixes a mid-90s fastball with good off-speed and breaking pitches.
"He's been cruising pretty good," Kelly said.
Cingrani may have struggled as a starter in the past, but he is thriving in that role once again.
The clincher: Missoula captured the North Division championship for the first half with a come-from-behind, 4-3 victory over Idaho Falls on Tuesday night. With the win, the Osprey (23-12) earned an automatic berth to the Pioneer League postseason.
Still sidelined: Helena starter Brandon Williamson hasn't appeared since he was hit in the head by a line drive in a game at Billings on July 1. Williamson remains sidelined with a concussion.
Baldwin's back: Ogden outfielder James Baldwin missed 21 games in July while dealing with what manager Damon Berryhill said were personal issues. Baldwin, a fourth-round pick in 2010, returned to the lineup July 23 against Great Falls.