In his short time in the majors, Tony Cingrani has established himself as one of the game's most promising young lefties, not to mention a key part of the Reds' rotation. Unfortunately, Cincinnati will have to do without him for the foreseeable future, as the 24-year-old southpaw has been put on the disabled list due to shoulder tendinitis after lasting just four innings against the Cubs during Wednesday's start.
A third-round 2011 pick out of Rice University, Cingrani debuted for the Reds in September 2012 and found his way into the rotation last April when Johnny Cueto hit the DL himself. In 18 starts and five relief appearances totaling 104 2/3 innings, he put together a 2.92 ERA and struck out an eye-opening 10.3 per nine, helping to offset high walk and homer rates (3.7 and 1.2 per nine, respectively). His performance was strong enough that the Reds were comfortable letting longtime rotation staple Bronson Arroyo depart as a free agent to open up a regular spot for Cingrani alongside a healthy Cueto.
As Cliff Corcoran noted on April 3, Cingrani didn't allow more than five hits in any of last year's starts, setting a post-1914 record that he ran to 22 games before surrendering six hits to the Pirates on April 24. To be fair, five of those starts ended with him having thrown four innings or fewer due to lower back woes or high pitch counts; Jose Fernandez, who ranks second on that list with 17 straight starts, threw just 6 2/3 fewer innings in five fewer turns.
Cingrani lasted just four innings on Wednesday as well, when he surrendered six hits, two walks and three runs to the Cubs. While his overall 3.34 ERA and 8.9 strikeouts per nine are plenty respectable, he had walked 15 batters over his past five starts and 25 1/3 innings, and 4.7 per nine overall. At least publicly, there had been no suggestion that he was battling shoulder problems, but his fastball velocity fell off markedly in his final inning of work against the Cubs, from an average of 92.3 mph with a max of 94.4 mph in the third to an average of 89.5 with a max of 90.1 in the fourth (all data via BrooksBaseball.net)
Via MLB.com's Mark Sheldon, manager Bryan Price noted the velocity dip on Thursday, adding, "[Cingrani] hasn't been real acute with his command either… His delivery has kind of wavered a little bit. Upon further investigation, we realized he was having a little bit of discomfort in his left shoulder." The Reds recalled reliever Curtis Partch to take Cingrani's roster spot. Because the team has three scheduled off days in a 12-day span, they plan to use a four-man rotation until his turn comes up on May 17. It may be optimistic to think he'll be back that quickly, but it's possible that Mat Latos could return around that time. Latos hasn't pitched in a big league game since last Oct. 11 due to surgeries to remove bone chips in his elbow and to repair the meniscus in his left knee, followed by a flexor mass strain in his elbow just as it appeared he was ready to return in mid-April. If he's not ready by that date, the likelihood is that veteran lefty Jeff Francis, who's currently pitching for the team's Triple-A Louisville affiliate, would spot.