Reds moving Tony Cingrani to bullpen
After outperforming all expectations during his rookie season, Tony Cingrani’s sophomore campaign was one that he surely wanted to put behind him. Unfortunately for the 25-year-old, his 2015 season is already off to a rough start with Reds manager Bryan Price informing Cingrani on Monday that he will start the season in the bullpen.
Cingrani’s deceptive delivery helped his low-90s fastball generate more whiffs than either Matt Harvey or Shelby Miller in 2013, but the league adjusted the next season and the southpaw was unable to effectively counter. He did mix in his slider and changeup more frequently but still relied on his fastball three out of every four pitches, with opposing hitters squaring the offering up more frequently and with more authority to the tune of a .210 isolated power.
There was also the matter of shoulder soreness, which sent Cingrani to the disabled list in early May for a minimal stint but cropped back up at the end of June and ultimately forced the Reds to shut him down in August. Maybe a fully recovered Cingrani can regain his 2013 form and work himself back into the rotation. It’s a scenario that Price is open to, as he indicated to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that the club would reevaluate Cingrani’s future as a starter at a later date.
That leaves four pitchers in the running for the final two spots in the Reds rotation. Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake will start the season in the rotation. Homer Bailey is expected to miss a start or two in April as he recovers from offseason right flexor tendon surgery but will have a spot waiting for him when he returns. As for the final two spots, Fay reports that Anthony DeSclafani and Jason Marquis are the current favorites with Cuban right-hander Raisel Iglesias the favorite to fill in until Bailey is ready. Left-hander Paul Maholm is the final starter in the running.
DeSclafani was the main piece the Reds got in return for Mat Latos and should be the odds-on favorite to lock up one of those spots. Marquis has made the most of his invitation to spring training, allowing just three hits, striking out seven and walking two in three outings spanning nine innings. However, that’s hardly enough to erase the fact that the 36-year-old hasn’t been better than replacement level since 2011 and spent most of last year languishing on the disabled list and at Triple-A for the Phillies. He was released at the end of the season.
If Iglesias were to break camp with the Reds, it was expected to be as a reliever. But with Cingrani bound for the bullpen, the Cuban hurler will get the chance to audition for a starting role. The lanky right-hander is listed at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds but possesses a four-pitch mix that includes a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a slider that has the potential to miss bats.
Iglesias got the nod over Cingrani on Monday for his first start of the spring and after walking the opening batter, he retired the final eight Giants including two via strikeout. If Iglesias shows that he can be effective in more than just short bursts later this spring and at the start of the season, it would be hard to imagine that he doesn’t eventually leapfrog Marquis in the pecking order.
Mets monitoring Matusz as trade target
On Monday, Zack Wheeler became the latest promising young hurler to succumb to a torn ulnar collateral ligament, which will likely require Tommy John surgery and end his 2015 season. Not only will Wheeler likely join Yu Darvish, Tim Collins, Shae Simmons, Brandon Cumpton and Joel Hanrahan as the latest Tommy John victim but he was also the second Met diagnosed with a torn UCL within a 24-hour period. Josh Edgin announced on Sunday that he would miss the entire season after electing for Tommy John surgery, which leaves manager Terry Collins without an obvious left-hander to deploy out of his bullpen.
The list of in-house candidates to replace Edgin as the bullpen’s resident southpaw includes Scott Rice, Dario Alvarez, Sean Gilmartin and Jack Leathersich. However, all four pitchers have struggled so far this spring and general manager Sandy Alderson is warming up to the idea of replacing Edgin with a left-hander currently outside of the organization.
One such reliever could be Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz, who the Mets have been scouting in the wake of Edgin’s injury, writes Dan Martin of the New York Post. Marc Carig of Newsday confirmed Martin’s report that the Mets have been scouting Matusz but also noted that the former first-round pick is not the only lefty reliever on the club’s radar.
Matusz, the fourth-overall pick in the 2008 draft, hasn’t exactly panned out as the Orioles would have liked but has been a respectable relief option since being relegated to the bullpen midway through the 2012 season. Over the past two years, Matusz has struck out a batter per inning and averaged just fewer than three walks per nine while posting an ERA+ of 113.
While Matusz has served as more than just a LOOGY for the Orioles, he does feature a considerable platoon split. During the past two years, he’s held left-handed batters to a .565 OPS but right-handers have crushed him to the tune of a .816 OPS. However, it’s unclear that the Mets’ current in-house options would be able to manage right-handers any better, even on a part-time basis. Rice allowed over half the righties he faced in 2013 to reach base, prompting the Mets to strictly limit him to a LOOGY role in 2014. None of the other three candidates have any major league experience and together they have combined to walk more batters than they’ve struck out this spring.
Alderson likely entered the spring anticipating that rostering the likes of Rice or Gilmartin would be as a LOOGY compliment to Edgin. But with the 28-year-old on the shelf, the club will survey the trade market for an option that can handle facing right-handers on even a semi-regular basis. Whether or not that guy is Matusz isn’t particularly clear but it’s not like there are many better options available with just three weeks until the start of the regular season.