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Reds fans cringed as they watched rookie right-hander, Tony Cingrani, leave his last start against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 4th inning. Fans wondered about the severity of his injury as he exited and hoped that he was not the next Reds pitcher to step into the revolving door of those that couldn’t stay healthy this season.
Cingrani has been impressive to say the very least, filling in admirably for other injured starter Johnny Cueto. Cingrani has posted a 6-3 record with a 2.76 ERA and an impressive 112 strikeouts in 97.2 innings pitched. He has allowed more than three runs in just one start and possibly even more impressive is the .190 batting average against him, which only trails Aroldis Chapman‘s .185.
When it came out after Tuesday’s game that Cingrani was suffering from a lower back strain, Reds fan sighed a collective sigh of relief that it was nothing more serious. There was optimism that Cingrani would not miss his next scheduled start, tomorrow against the Brewers. Now, it looks as though that Cingrani will be placed on the DL, retroactive to August 21st, and be replaced by Greg Reynolds. Losing Cingrani is obviously not what the Reds need during their run at the division crown, however, could it be a positive?
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That’s right, I said could there be a silver lining to Cingrani being placed on the DL for a couple weeks?
It sounds absurd to say there could possibly be a positive to a team losing a pitcher with the best ERA on the team, however, hear me out.
Prior to Cingrani’s injury, there were rumblings that the Reds would be monitoring his innings the rest of the season. Cingrani is still just 24-years-old. He threw a total of 151 innings last year, 146 in the minors and 5 in three appearances as a September call up. Now, Cingrani has thrown a total of 129 innings this year combined between the Reds and minors. This includes the 3.2 innings pitched on Tuesday.
If we factor in that Cingrani was averaging 5.7 innings per start prior to Tuesday, let’s assume that he would have went another two innings in his last start if it were not for the injury. That would put him at 131 innings pitched this season. Breaking down the Reds remaining schedule, Cingrani would have 7 more starts the rest of the season. If he continued throwing just his average number of innings per start, that would put Cingrani at 171 innings on the year, already 20 more than the 2012 season.
This means that Cingrani would have been above his most innings pitched in a season before the Reds even reached the playoffs. Now, if Cingrani does indeed go on the disabled list as it looks like he will, he will be eligible to return on Sept. 5 for the finale of the 4-game series against the Cardinals. Cingrani will miss at least two starts, but thats approximately 11 innings he’ll save his arm from throwing.
Those saved innings coupled with the rest that his arm will gain from the two week hiatus could set Cingrani up to continue his productive and impressive year for the Reds in the playoffs. He may miss part of the Reds push towards the division title, however, as a Reds fan would you rather have your team-leading ERA guy rested and ready for the playoffs or helping push towards the division and possibly tired for the playoffs?