The Tony Cingrani Situation


Tony Cingrani could start for the Reds on Thursday in place of injured hurler Johnny Cueto.

There’s no doubt that Tony Cingrani tore up the minor leagues last season.

While the former Blue Wahoos southpaw wasn’t exactly off the radar in 2011, last year’s historic campaign in Bakersfield and Pensacola warranted a late-season promotion and made him a household name in Cincinnati circles. Cingrani may not have been unstoppable, but he was close. Holding the hitter-friendly Southern League to a stingy .192 batting average, his marks for earned run average (1.73) and strikeouts (172) across two levels ranked first and second, respectively, against all minor league pitchers.

Earning a starting opportunity on the first day of Reds’ spring training, Cingrani was a fixture in Reds’ camp before his assignment to the Triple-A Louisville Bats. In three games (14.1 IP), he had accrued a 1-0 record while allowing no runs on three hits. In addition to only two walks, Cingrani recorded an unfathomable twenty-six strikeouts, including fourteen on Opening Night.

So what is Cingrani still doing in Louisville?

Several factors suggest that he’ll be starting for the Reds on Thursday in place of injured ace Johnny Cueto. Working through another two masterful innings on Sunday — five K’s against only six batters — Cingrani was quickly pulled from the game. Fans knew the promotion was imminent, but seemed surprised that he wasn’t en route to Cincinnati by the third inning.

Here are the reasons why Cingrani isn’t suiting up for Cincinnati yet:

  1. Money: Keeping the Rice University product out of the red piping means that he won’t be paid the major league one-day salary until his call-up. (Hint: it’s more than what he makes in the minors. Actually, quite a bit more.) A promotion on Sunday would have meant that even if he left on the next train to Louisville right after his Thursday start, the Reds would have owed four days of pay. With a seasonal rate of $79,900 for players with one day of service in the majors combined with his position on the 40-man roster since September, the tab adds up quickly.
  2. Safety: To make a long story short, you never know. It may seem like a stretch to label this as a primary reason, but there’s no need to rush the heir apparent or break his off-day routine before a crucial major league start.
  3. Logistics: Why should Cingrani watch the Phillies series play out when his immediate role concerns the Miami Marlins? He won’t be throwing at any point during those games anyway, as his service will come as a starter and not out of the bullpen. See Reasons 1 and 2.

Rest assured, Cingrani seems to be the lock for Thursday’s start in Cincinnati. For fans back home in Pensacola, the pitching phenom will be forever remembered as a Blue Wahoo.

But until Thursday, he’s a Louisville Bat.

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