2013 Reds / Editorials

The Fierce Urgency of Now

He sets his jaw and fixes his gaze plateward. If there is fear, you will not detect it. If there is doubt, only he will know it.  His apprenticeship is still a work in progress. Without a doubt, the arm needs more versatility, more seasoning. Man cannot live by fastball alone. The mental part though, seems more than ready.

Anthony Michael Cingrani is a young man in a hurry. Hopping, skipping and jumping from Billings to Bakerfield to Pensacola before pausing in Louisville to catch his breath, he has fast-tracked his way to the majors with all the certainty of the morning sun rising to take its place in the noonday sky. Bad luck for Johnny Cueto and the Reds has meant opportunity for the youngster from the outskirts of Chicago. Precious work in the big leagues has helped identify the blank spaces on his pitching portfolio. A spot in the rotation is awaiting him once Bronson Arroyo takes his leave for more moneyed pastures and one last big league payday. At least, that’s the plan that’s been penciled in for 2014.

All that is on hold now. In a perfect baseball world, Cingrani would head back down to Louisville, continue to work on his secondary pitches and serve as insurance should Cueto’s body continue to betray him. Instead, the Reds must deal with a pitching staff that has fallen from grace, from a time when all five starters blew through a season without missing a start and one of the best bullpens in Baseball dominated from the 7th inning onward. This year, the baseball gods are exacting their pound of flesh. The Opening Day starter made only his 7th start of the season yesterday, Nick Masset has been a no show, Sean Marshall continues to be MIA, with Jonathan Broxton the latest casualty—and Aroldis Chapman is locked away in in Dusty Baker’s panic room with a sign that reads, “IN CASE OF 3 RUN LEAD IN NINTH, BREAK GLASS.”

There’s no question Tony Cingrani remains in Cincinnati for now. The question is, should he stay when Marshall returns? Reluctantly, that answer is yes. Unequivocally, yes. Can anyone objectively look and the road ahead and under even the best of circumstances NOT see the Cardinals’ lead doubling to 5 games by the time the Reds finish with the Pirates on July 21st?

 

REDLEGS o/u .500 REDBIRDS o/u .500
Pirates (4)  +13 Cubs (4) -11
DBacks (3) +6 Rangers (3)  +7
A’s (2) +12  Astros (2)  -18
Rangers (3)  +7  A’s (3)  +12
Giants (4)  +3 Angels (3)  -8
Mariners (3)  -7 Marlins (3)  -26
Brewers (3)  -12 Astros (2)  -18
Braves (4)  +12 Cubs (4)  -11
– All Star Break –
Pirates (3) +13 Padres (3)

 

I believe the Cardinals will come back to earth. It’s really hard to see it happening in the next four weeks. And if they don’t, it’s easy to see them sprint out to a lead that will paint the Reds into a corner faster than you can say “Sherwin-Williams.” Baker has managed his team—and especially his bullpen—to get him to September. I don’t believe that strategy works any longer. Not with the schedule in front of both teams. And forget the Pirates at your peril. They have remained on the Reds’ heels all season. The assumption that they will fade based on past seasons is just that—an assumption. Teams have been known to defy run differentials (see, e.g., 2012 Baltimore Orioles).

The Redlegs need to find the bullpen mojo they had last year. Now. Cingrani’s presence in the bullpen for the rest of the season gives the best chance of accomplishing that feat. When Marshall does return, he will almost certainly be used gingerly and will take on even more the look of a LOOGY than he already has under Dusty’s grand plan. Tony C. gives the bullpen the legitimate lefty option that is currently missing in Manny Parra. He has the versatility to be used in long relief, as well as any high leverage situation that occurs, no matter who stands at the plate. He can also act as stress relief for LeCure and Hoover, who must now feel as if they need to be nails each and every trip out to the mound. He makes a healthy and effective Jonathan Broxton less urgent. In short, he has the potential to make everyone in the bullpen better in much the same way that Votto makes the hitters around him better. And his weaknesses—his pitch inefficiency and secondary pitches—are minimized.

The other option, a trade, is fraught with complications. The extra wild card will keep more teams thinking they are still in the race, meaning fewer suitors with which to bargain. The price will be high. Who really wants to give up prospects for bullpen help of all things? Bullpen help that cannot possibly have the impact of young Cingrani?

Does it complicate Cingrani’s future? Yes. But, if you believe in this season, it must be done. Creatively manage his innings in the pen so that he finishes with an acceptable innings total heading into next year, if you have to. But make this happen.

Is it a gamble? Yeah. Could Cueto go down again? Absolutely. But, Cueto is healthy today and Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton are not. If either remain in DL limbo or come back and prove ineffective, the Reds will continue to falter late in games and waste precious time on the calendar. It’s a roll of the dice the Reds must take. The Angels lost their chance at making the playoffs last year all the way back in April, when a slow start and the decision to leave a guy named Mike Trout in the minors doomed their season. This should be an object lesson to the Reds now as the season nears its midway point. Simply put, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Don’t look back. Don’t look to simply hang close ’till September. Time to play with the fierce urgency of now.

 

27 thoughts on “The Fierce Urgency of Now

  1. Definitely right that the Redlegs need to play with urgency… The days of crying “it’s only one game out of 162″ should be conclusively over. But one look at Dusty’s bullpen alternate universe should make the idea of placing Cingrani in there unfathomable. The minor leagues are trashed. I don’t think we should risk the last big upcoming talent on Dusty’s ability to “creatively manage his innings in the pen”….

  2. You realize, of course, that once he’s undergone the “conversion” to reliever, he can never go back, right?

  3. What I’d like is to see the Reds have a winning percentage over .500 in this string, though a .500 should prove well enough. The Cardinals must also play all these teams at some point as well. It’s not like the Reds have a tougher schedule than the Cardinals by the end of the season. PLUS, and this is a big bonus, the Cardinals have to play the Redlegs and the Reds don’t. That’s good.

  4. I agree in the logical sense but as soon as you run into Dusty logic hits a wall. There will not be any creativity concerning Cingrani’s use. It would still be an improvement over what we have now but the consequences to the future may be severe. All that said, it would be fun to watch.

  5. For perspective, the weighted winning percentages that the Reds will face is .538 over 29 games, while the Cards will face a teams with a winning percentage of .445 over 27 games.

    That means over this stretch it’s like the Reds have to play the Dbacks and the Yankees over and over, while the Cards face the Mariners and Twins over and over.

    It’s gonna take some serious work to keep up. We really need Votto and Choo to pull out of their slumps.

  6. This article is spot on.

    unfortunately, so is this comment from Mwv: “There will not be any creativity concerning Cingrani’s use.”

    Which means that this could be a lose lose scenario, where Dusty has Cingrani but does not use him effectively, and does not allow for his development for next year either.

    I also agree with rfay: where is Arrendondo up to take on lefties?

    • @reaganspad:

      Have you guys looked at how he’s doing at AAA ( not even bringing in the fact that he was suspended for a disciplinary issue)?

      25 IP 14 R 14 ER 22 BB 37 K 1.461 WHIP 4.97 ERA He’s actually pitching better against RHB than LHB also.

      I’ll pass on Arredondo at this point.

  7. The Cingrani debate is very interesting. Most of the people on this blog agree the Reds will make the playoffs, as Wild Card, maybe as division champs. I don’t think the “crying 162″ is conclusively over. We still watch the games every day during the season, and the games must be played on the field, not on paper. And with so many players on the DL, Cingrani needs to be up at least until Marshall returns.
    Now, most of the people on this blog are diehard fans, and know how Dusty thinks/works. That’s why we’re skeptical of keeping Cingrani up after Marshall returns. Truth is, he deserves to be up here, moreso than Ondrusek and Arredondo, Partch and Parra. Isn’t that the reason for being in the big leagues? I think everyone here and running the team agrees that he needs some work, but what’s to say he can’t work on that 2nd or 3rd pitch in the pen? I think he stays up, and just like I HOPE the Reds win the division, I HOPE he works on his other pitches up here, not down in AAA.

    • @NastyBoys3:

      Cingrani is one of the Reds best 12 pitchers. He should be in Cincy. He gets a big league pay check, which I’m sure makes him happy. But the important part is he can work on his other pitches while in Cincy. He has Brian Price right next to him now. And he has 11 other experienced big league pitchers helping and educating him more on the big league hitters. And if another starter has an injury, then he can be moved right into the rotation. Or they even could call up Reynolds who is pitching pretty well at AAA.

      • @WVRedlegs:

        But the important part is he can work on his other pitches while in Cincy.

        Not while he is pitching out of the bullpen, that’s the problem. In order to work on those secondary pitches, you have to actually pitch. That includeds bullpen sessions and live batting. That’s not a luxury a pitcher has while working out of the major league bullpen.

    • but what’s to say he can’t work on that 2nd or 3rd pitch in the pen?

      Chapman has a third pitch, every spring. Then once he’s back in the pen, you rarely even see his *second* pitch.

  8. “… the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

    Or the one.

    “I have been and always shall be … your friend. Live long and prosper!” – Spock, Wrath of Kahn.

    I agree with the decision to keep him up. The best 12 pitchers should be on the roster if you are trying to win a pennant. Cingrani IS one of the best 12. There really shouldn’t be any question here, especially with no “shutdown lefty” in the bullpen.

  9. If Cingrani spends any significant time in the bullpen this season, how many innings will he be able to go as Arroyo’s replacement next year? Will we be talking about shutting him down early? Would he be available for the playoffs in 2014?

    • @RC: That’s where my mind goes… who do the Reds bring in or up to take Cingrani’s place next year when they are in the thick of a race and in need of arm to get them over the hump?

      Certainly I understand you can look at this as “opportunities are rare, gotta take ‘em when they come” kind of move to put Cingrani in the pen, and yet are we really saying he’s going to be the difference maker in catching the Cards? It’s a gamble… I don’t know when it may or may not become damaging to have him get used to relieving, and then not be able to start if a starter goes down. That’s his value to this team. I think they can weather this stretch with or without him.

      Quality starters don’t come around easily either, and I’d hate to think the Reds would screw this kid up. I hear the argument that he’s the better pitcher right now, but it pains me so much that they have to gamble some of the future because of not otherwise being able to use Chapman differently, or having Parra on the roster at all.

      • @Matt WI: The second worst thing that could happen as a result of putting Cingrani in the pen is that he might *not* be successful there. The worst thing is that he might be.

  10. Cingrani logged 146 innings last year. I’m sure the plan was to get him to 175 this year and have him ready for 200 innings when he replaces Arroyo. He has 71 innings thus far in 2013. Keeping him in the bullpen means they won’t be able to pitch him much beyond 170 next year. However, that would probably have been true of Chapman, too, even had they stuck with the original plan to start Aroldis.

    No, you can’t work on secondary pitches while in the bullpen. That’s that kind of thing you do between starts.

    I think Cingrani helps Dusty-proof the pen (as much as anything can be Dusty-proofed). He’s unlikely to turn Tony into a LOOGY as long as Marshall is in the pen. I don’t think his situation is analogous to Chapman’s. While Baker has been allowed to do what he wants with Chapman, that is due in large part because I think the front office believes that he is fragile. They are terrified of his arm problems returning from last year. So, if Baker wants to coddle him, Jocketty is not only fine with that, he’s probably thoroughly on board with the plan as it’s being excuted.

    Cingrani can handle any workload Baker throws at him on any given day, so the only real worry is that Dusty would jeopardize his arm by pitching him too many days in a calendar week. But, at some point, you have to expect Walt would step in and prevent that from happening.

    I don’t think they’re going to allow him to be converted to a reliever under any circumstances, as long as he shows an ability to master some other pitches.

  11. Thanks Bill Lack for the analysis. I agree, and had forgotten about the disciplinary action.

    His strike out to innings almost looks like he is board or not focused. His walks sure do prove that

  12. I’m very scared of shifting a top-flight lefty starter to the bullpen out of necessity again, particularly with this GM and this Coach.

  13. Tonight’s lineup:
    Choo-cf
    DRob-lf
    Votto-1b
    BP-2b
    Bruce-rf
    Frazier-3b
    Cozart-ss
    Mes-c
    Leake-p

    Not bad and hopefully this will be the quality of the line-ups we will see for the next several weeks. Not the end of world but a sense “of some” sense of urgency wouldn’t hurt. Zach is hot as can be (10 for his last 26) and DRob is struggling (5 for 25) so it may not be a great time to drop Cozart to 7th. Let Mes bat 7th and DRob 8th would seem to make better sense. Still can’t argue much with DB’s lineup tonight.

    My mind can’t handle 26 games at once, so I’ll concentrate on them one at a time.

    This should be a good one – Go Reds!!

  14. How comfortable are people with the idea of Galarraga or Reynolds or (gulp!) Villareal starting if and when the Reds need another starter? That rotation spot would come up once every five games, unless Dusty starts skipping that spot. Is Cingrani going to be a difference-maker in the bullpen often enough to warrant taking this chance?

    And that is not even addressing the idea of whether it might negatively impact Cingrani’s overall development.

  15. Very well stated argument, Richard, whether one agrees or not.

    Just a couple of weeks ago I argued for leaving Cingrani in the starting rotation at AAA until September. Since then I’ve seen a whole lot of 8th inning (and 2 out) leads blown – LeCure has come down to earth, a struggling Broxton now on the DL, no return date yet set for Marshall, etc. The Reds lost the 3rd game in Cincy to the Cardinals because they had no one to come on in the 8th inning and face a trio of LHed hitters.

    At this point I’m with Cingrani in the pen, for now. Not sure if he needs to be there after Marshall returns.

    People are understandably concerned after what’s happened with Chapman. But do people seriously think that both Cingrani and Chapman will be in the bullpen next year ? One of them will replace Bronson and that will be Cingrani. Cingrani has already proven that he can start in the major leagues, Chapman never had that chance.

    A few points:

    Dusty will not use Cingrani as a LOOGY.

    Cingrani is comfortable with the relief role, as he was a closer at Rice. He has made the conversion from reliever to starter before: he can make the conversion back to starter – even this season – if needed.

    Why do people keep mentioning Arredondo ? It takes 30 seconds to look up how horrible he’s been at AAA.

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