Reds left-hander Tony Cingrani did an interview with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio today. Cingrani is in Detroit, where his trainer lives. The 24-year-old discussed his health, his off-season program, his relationship with Byran Price and Devin Mesoraco, his pitching arsenal and his walk-up music. He struck me as smart, personable and not completely cliché-laden. This is a rough (not verbatim) transcript:
Q: How is your back?
TC: I’m feeling good. No setbacks. I took off one month but then got right back after it. I’m feeling great. I haven’t been doing a crazy rehab because the issue was skeletal, it’s just a matter of strengthening the muscles around it. Doing normal lifting with my trainer. It was the facet that hangs off the vertebrae. I just have to keep it strong and deal with it. I haven’t had to do anything different. I’m doing the same thing as last year just making sure it’s really strong before spring training.
Q: Are you excited? Do you have a different mindset this year with a starting job?
TC: I’m overly excited. I can’t wait to get to spring training and start throwing again. I know where I stand more this year. I’m still trying to win a job. But pretty sure I’ll be the fifth starter. I’ll just be going in there doing my work.
Q: What have you been working on, the fastball is your bread and butter, how is your breaking stuff?
TC: (deliberately and emphatically) I have made a *huge* leap this off-season with my slider. I’m staying back more. I’m throwing it a lot harder, 80-82 with pretty good break. I didn’t change the grip. It was no one person who helped me with it. I talked to about 15 different people and just kept messing with it until it felt comfortable.
Q: Where did you pick up your great fastball location and command?
TC: (laughs) Well it was kind of life or death. If I didn’t locate it, I’d have been screwed. At Rice was where that started. When I changed my arm path I went an entire year throwing nothing but fastballs, so command was important.
Q: Who suggested the change in your arm path?
TC: My manager and pitching coach at Rice. One day outside of his office my pitching coach said just drop your arm, pick it up and throw it. And I did it and it was the most fluid motion ever. He said just do that the rest of your life. Before that, I was really swinging it, my left arm was literally going toward third base, it was the worst looking motion ever.
Q: Your change up is your other weapon. When did that come around?
TC: In high school I was fastball/change up, and I only threw 88 then. In high school my change-up was more like a right-handed curve ball. But I scrapped that in college and worked on my slider. So I lost the feel of my change-up. Pitching. You lose some things and gain others. You just try to survive.
Q: Will it be different working with Byran Price now that he’s your boss?
TC: We have Jeff Pico as the pitching coach now. I haven’t had many conversations with him yet, but what I have had he seems like a good guy and knows what he’s talking about. Last year, I threw bullpen once every five days and had a sit down meeting (with Price) once every five days, He throws out a lot of ideas. You can talk to him whenever you need to. He was always there to answer questions. He’s (Price) a great communicator. He’s a great leader.
Q: You’ll be throwing to Devin Mesoraco this year, thoughts about that?
TC: I threw about half and half to him last year. Both he and Hani are great catchers. Mesoraco has made leaps with his game. He’s a tremendous catcher. Corky Miller was around some last year to help him. He’s getting a lot better defensively, throwing it and calling pitches. He catches Mike Leake, who mixes in a cutter, 2-seamer slider and change-up so he knows about mixing pitches.
Q: How will the staff make up for the loss of Bronson Arroyo?
TC: Hopefully I can do his job although I don’t know about throwing 200 innings. Hopefully we’ll just get it done.
Q: What’s the story with your walk-up music?
TC: I didn’t pick that last year. I just told them to pick a rock and roll song. If I had my choice, I’d choose Sean Marshall’s song Kashmir by Led Zepplin. But he’s had that for a long time, so I can’t mess with that. Maybe it’s a lefty thing. I’ve got some new songs for this year, but no one will have heard of them.