When Mat Latos was activated from the disabled list on Saturday, June 14, Cincinnati Reds skipper Bryan Price had a tough decision. A Tony Cingrani trip to the minors was widely speculated. Price and the Reds brass took a smarter route and placed Sean Marshall on the DL with a phantom injury—known as pitiful pitching—and moved the lefty Cingrani to the pen in Marshall’s former spot.
As far as pitches are graded, Cingrani has consistently shown a plus fastball. His delivery is deceptive, and he brings his heat anywhere from 88-94 MPH. For Reds fans, that’s where the good news stops.
Cingrani does not have a single reliable secondary pitch. Granted, subtracting seven MPH off a fastball almost makes it a change, but not quite. When he attempts a straight change-up, he gets knocked around or the pitch is way off the plate. His slider attempts are equally ineffective.
Other than the rare knuckleballer, fans never see starting pitchers with just one pitch. Their stat lines end up looking like, well, Cingrani’s before Sunday’s relief outing: 2-7 record, 4.68 ERA, 1.525 WHIP with 1.8 home runs per nine.
Before hitting the DL for the second time this season, Marshall was putting up cringe-worthy numbers: 15 games, 7.71 ERA, 23 hits, 12 walks, in 14 innings. Toss in his two hit batsmen and he was allowing 2.62 batters to reach bases per inning.
The only lefty in the pen, besides Marshall, was specialist Manny Parra. With Cingrani, the Reds now have a pitcher who can toss more than one inning if needed and is able retire batters from both sides of the plate.
And the best part is Cingrani won’t have to face opposing batters more than once a game. More than once around the lineup for any one-pitch pitcher—sans knuckleballers—rarely works.
No matter how hard, no matter how deceptive, a Major League hitter who gets enough looks at any fastball will make pitchers pay. Popping Cingrani into a middle-relief position quickly alleviates that problem.