The Tony Cingrani dilemma
One of this spring's most popular sleepers is on the verge of losing his job, bringing his stashability into question.
It's a situation made all the more complicated by the fact Cingrani hasn't lived up to his end of the bargain so far. As a rookie last year, he was next to unhittable, allowing fewer hits per nine innings (6.2) and recording more strikeouts per nine innings (10.3) than both Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw, the two reigning Cy Young winners. And while he hasn't gotten lambasted, he also hasn't thrown strikes consistently, resulting in higher pitch counts, earlier hooks and, consequently, a 2-6 record.
Wood, meanwhile, did everything in his power to convince the Braves he belongs in the rotation long-term. In his first five starts especially, he dominated, going seven innings or more in four of them while compiling a 1.54 ERA. The Braves didn't remove him because of ineffectiveness. They came into a surplus and saw it as an opportunity to save up his innings for future use while also fortifying their bullpen in the short-term.
When the time comes to replace Aaron Harang or Gavin Floyd, the Braves know they can count on Wood. When the time comes to replace Alfredo Simon or anyone else who happens to go down, the Reds may not be so quick to turn to Cingrani.
After all, he wasn't supposed to be a starter in the first place. His inability to develop a third pitch had most teams projecting him for a bullpen role in the 2011 draft. But then when he dominated in 45 appearances, including 44 starts, in the Reds' minor-league system, compiling a 1.65 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings, and followed it up with last year's performance, he looked like he might be able to survive without a true breaking ball. Only when he began forcing the issue, throwing his "slider" about 15 percent of the time this year, did he lose his effectiveness.
Maybe shifting to the bullpen will get him back to the basics. Maybe he'll ditch the slider and become so dominant the Reds will have no choice but to give him another look. But I'm thinking you'll have plenty of warning before that happens.
With his long-term role very much in question, Cingrani's short-term value is practically nonexistent.
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