It is never good news when a team's ace pitcher goes down with an injury. But that is just what happened to the Reds on Saturday night when Johnny Cueto left Saturday night's ballgame versus the Pirates with a lat strain.
Instead of getting all bummed about losing Cueto for two or three starts, Reds fans should remain positive.
Why? Cueto's injury is not nearly as serious as it initially appeared, and Tony Cingrani is going to take his spot in the rotation.
According to fangraphs.com, a brief Cingrani scouting report says the following:
"The 23-year-old’s excessive use of his four seamer isn’t by design, it’s out of necessity. In 2012, Cingrani threw a slider and a changeup, but neither were average offerings and he used them sparingly. This year, Cingrani has added an intriguing new 11-5 sweeping curveball. It’s a slow breaker with tight rotation and consistent shape that he can throw for strikes."
Cingrani, a southpaw taken in the third round of the 2011 amateur draft, has been nothing short of lights-out during his fleet rise to the top of the Reds minor league system. In 2011, while pitching rookie league ball, he threw 51 innings striking out 80 while walking only six opposing batters.
His 2012 campaign began in Bakersfield, the Reds high-A affiliate. Mid-season, he earned a promotion to the AA club in Pensacola. Cingrani pitched so well, the Reds called him up for a September cup of coffee where he struck out nine in five innings, allowing only one earned run.
So far in 2013—a very limited sample size—Cingrani has pitched 14.1 innings, allowing no runs, three hits and two walks with an Aroldis Chapman-like strikeout total of 26
If he pitches well against the Marlins and the Cubs—his two scheduled opponents—it could spell one of two events...both positive, and both involving him staying with the big club for the remainder of the season.
The first, and more unlikely scenario, would see him take over the fifth spot in the rotation currently held by Mike Leake. For this to happen Cingrani's 11-5 curve would need to prove effective against major league hitting. Additionally, he would need another secondary pitch—either the slider and/or the change.
It is more likely that Cingrani will replace someone in the pen. With Sean Marshall out and Manny Parra serving as the only left-handed set-up man, he could supply the Reds with a more than adequate arm.
Given that Cueto is out for two or three starts, the situation in Cincinnati could be much worse.