Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Is Tony Cingrani ready for the big show?

When one door closes, another door opens.

Such is the case with Johnny Cueto and Tony Cingrani -- the latter of which figures to replace Cueto's spot in the rotation once the time comes.

On Monday, the Reds promoted RHP Justin Freeman from Triple-A Louisville to provide some help to a weary bullpen. However, Cingrani is expected to make Cueto's next scheduled start, which as of now is slated to be on Thursday against the Marlins. Cingrani could also make up to four starts before Cueto returns from the disabled list. And it begs the question, is the southpaw ready?

If you go by what he has done since being drafted, than you would have to believe he is ready.

Aside from the brief cup of coffee he received with the Reds in 2012 (3g, 5ip), Cingrani has been dominant throughout his minor league career. In 2011, after being drafted by Cincinnati in the third round of the amateur draft, Cingrani posted a 1.75 ERA in 13 starts for Billings. He displayed outstanding control (1.1 BB/9) and blew away hitters with his fastball and tantalizing curve (80 K in 51.1 IP).

In 2012, the Rice University product built upon his success by tallying a 10-4 record and tidy 1.73 ERA in 26 games split between Single-A and Double-A. He struckout 172 batters in 146 innings pitched and sported a rather low WHIP of 1.027.

Scouting services began to take notice of Cingrani's meteoric rise through the farm system this offseason when Baseball America ranked him as the No. 82 prospect in baseball. ranked him even higher overall (No. 66) and tabbed him third among Reds minor leaguers.

As good as he was in 2011 and 2012, he is off to an even better start in 2013. Through three starts, Cingrani has yet to allow a run in 14.1 innings, and has surrendered just three hits and two walks. That's not to mention the 26 batters he's retired via strikes.

So, is the 6-foot-4 pitcher primed to make it in the big show? His performance in the minors certainly seems to suggest he will. And because of Cueto's injury, he now gets his chance.

It will be interesting to see what the Reds do with him if he performs well. They may find themselves in a precarious situation in which they will either have to send a hot hand back down to Triple-A, or bump someone else from the rotation, presumably fifth starter Mike Leake.

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