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Goss: Tony Cingrani works through two Alfonso Soriano blasts

Cincinnati Reds starter Tony Cingrani reacts after Chicago Cubs' Alfonso Soriano hit two-run home run during third inning baseball game

Cincinnati Reds starter Tony Cingrani reacts after Chicago Cubs' Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Chicago, Saturday, May 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: July 4, 2013 2:38AM



Dusty Baker relaxed in the visiting manager’s office Saturday morning at Wrigley Field and expressed his wish.

“I hope he pitches well today,” he said. “Sometimes that’s not easy in front of the home fans.”

The Cincinnati Reds’ skipper was discussing his prize rookie left-hander, Lincoln-Way Central graduate Tony Cingrani, who also pitched at South Suburban.

The Cubs’ Alfonso Soriano, with one home run and three RBI coming in, apparently was listening and decided to spoil the homecoming. His consecutive two-run homers in the first and third innings created the worst of Cingrani’s four major league starts.

“I wasn’t getting ahead, couldn’t locate my fastball,” said Cingrani, who also hit batters in the first two innings. “The first one he (Soriano) hit was probably 90 mph. It didn’t feel good out of my hand.”

Cingrani (2-0) persevered, however. He lasted six innings and allowed threee hits and one walk, striking out five and retiring the last 10 batters he faced. He threw 97 pitches.

Before it ended, the Reds rallied, scoring four runs in the eighth on one hit, and won 6-4.

“I battled through — you always have to save the (bull)pen and give your team a chance to win — but it was a bad start,” said Cingrani, who added there were a significant number of his relatives, friends and Saturday night dinner partners in the stands.

“As long as I locate my fastball, I’m usually O.K. But I wasn’t getting ahead of anybody, especially early.”

“Tony was having trouble getting his breaking ball and change over,” Baker said. “When you don’t do that, you have to come in with strikes, and Soriano hit a couple out.”

Before Saturday, Cingrani’s numbers were sick — in a good way.

In his first three starts covering 18 innings, the 23-year-old, a third-round draft pick out of Rice University in 2011, allowed 12 hits and four walks while striking out 28. No matter which way you crunch the stats, wow.

“With Tony, it all starts with his demeanor,” Reds pitching coach Bryan Price said. “He is a strong-willed guy.

“A lot of young pitchers get here wondering if they can succeed. Both when he got here last September and pitched a little relief, and since he has been here this year, he looks like he knows he can succeed. He is extremely confident.”

Cingrani, who is 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, began the season at Triple-A Louisviille and went 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA. In 14 1/3 innings, he allowed three hits and two walks while striking out 26.

Johnny Cueto, the Reds’ ace, went on the disabled list April 15 with a strained right lat muscle and Cingrani was summoned to take his spot. When he started April 18 against Miami, it ended a streak of 180 Reds games started by a right-hander.

“Having a lefty option is no option if the lefty can’t pitch,” Baker said. “He (Cingrani) can pitch. He’s won everywhere he’s gone. He’s not afraid to throw strikes.”

Having a quality lefty begs the question Baker is a little tired of hearing. What happens when Cueto returns, since Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Mat Latos and Mike Leake all have pitched well.

“No decision on what we’ll do,” Baker said. “That stuff always takes care of itself. We’re glad to have Cingrani and glad he is pitching well.

“The only thing is, I’d like to see him pitch deeper into games. We’ve got Corky (Miller) working with him. He can direct him through games.”

Miller, who has been in professional baseball for 16 years, has caught Cingrani’s last three starts and also was with him at Louisville. He was recalled April 21, when Ryan Hanigan went on the disabled list.

“Tony’s maturity level is good,” Miiller said. “He knows he has stuff to learn and can’t settle for what he is doing now. He knows if goes five innings and throws 120 pitches and gives up one hit, that’s not helping the team. Our goal is to get him past the sixth inning consistently.”

Cingrani relies heavily on his fastball and throws a curve that he has been working on for a while. His changeup has slipped on the priority list, but he said he has to get back to incorporating it more.

“People always say, ‘where’s his breaking ball,’ and ‘he has to get better command of his changeup,’” Baker said. “But he gets people out locating his fastball, and he’s a good kid.”

His fastball has hit 96 mph.

“He has a good fastball,” Miller said. “He likes to go after guys. His breaking pitch keeps them off balance a little.”

Miller’s take on Cingrani’s control differed from Baker’s.

“His ability not to hit his spots sometimes makes him tough,” the catcher said.

Asked for a comparison with anyone he has caught previously, Miller said, “Tony is his own guy. He is an emotional kid, has a lot of fire.

“He’s one of those guys where hitters don’t see the fastball well. He is hungry and will go out and compete. Our goal now is to get him past the seventh inning.”

Price also mentioned hitters having difficulty picking up Cingrani.

“He has good velocity and deception,” Price said. “Sometimes it is hard for hitters to see where it’s going.

“He has worked his way through our system and been so dominant so quickly. That’s why he is here.”



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