Visitors to reds.com may have been surprised to see that hurler Tony Cingrani had been optioned to the Arizona League Reds on Wednesday. His last outing was solid, albeit a tad short, in the Reds’ 8-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves. So was there something wrong with the southpaw, or did the Redlegs know something we didn’t?
Debate Cingrani’s role with Cincinnati if you wish, but Wednesday’s news shouldn’t scare you. The Reds made a smart move by optioning Baseball America’s number-three prospect to the rookie-level league and adding infielder Neftali Soto to the roster. The team desperately needs some pop from the right side of the plate, and Soto — a .330 hitter against right-handed pitching in Triple-A Louisville — should provide that off the bench.
BRM’s Stephanie Deskins covered this yesterday and cited the “practical sense” behind the move. While I wouldn’t agree that Cingrani’s days are numbered, Stephanie hit the nail on the head when she speculated that skipper Dusty Baker is testing the waters for September. The 24-year-old has posted four straight 100-hit seasons and is certainly poised for his fifth, just seven knocks behind the benchmark with a full six weeks of baseball ahead. If he’s not leading a statistical category on the Bats’ roster, he’s second by a nose (and you can fact-check that right from the site). But the prospect isn’t getting any younger, and the fact that his future at first base is limited in Cincinnati doesn’t mean that he can’t play in the major leagues. The clock is ticking as July 31 fast approaches.
So that leaves Cingrani, who was bounced after four innings on July 14. His job is secure to the point that he’s still tabbed to start the first game of a July 23 doubleheader in San Francisco. The Reds aren’t taking any chances with their fifth starter after a week of rest, so they’re using a new stipulation in the collective bargaining agreement to their advantage. In the deal, teams get an extra man for twin bills, or an active roster of twenty-six players. The rule also oversteps the ten-day restriction on recalling Cingrani, giving the brass more freedom to move him around the farm. So Baker can squeeze a few timely at-bats out of Soto, or maybe even give his four-time All-Star and Face of MLB a well-deserved night off. Meanwhile, the lefty is destined for a few bullpen sessions in the Arizona complex to stay loose, but he will be back in the red piping soon enough.
In an added bit of practicality, the drive from Goodyear to San Francisco is just over seven hundred miles. That number more than triples when you make the same trek from Great American Ball Park.
At the end of the day, Cingrani can’t be too happy with the arrangement, but he’s as much a Red today and tomorrow as he was that Sunday afternoon at Turner Field.
Kourage Kundahl is the lead blogger and editor of Hook, Line, and Sinker, the official blog of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, as well as a contributing writer to Blog Red Machine. You can keep up with him as he live-tweets every Wahoos game by following @wahoosblog.