SURPRISE, AZ. — The Cincinnati Reds are treading a treacherous path in their treatment of pitcher Tony Cingrani.
What to do, what to do?
His delivery is unorthodox. It is what makes his fastball so effective. But, is it also what causes soreness to invade his shoulder?
That’s what the Reds are trying to find out. Should they change his delivery, tinker with his mechanics?
ASKED IF HIS mechanics/delivery led to Cingrani’s season-long shoulder miseries, manager Bryan Price said, “It is hard to say. When a pitcher has an injury, we always look at the delivery as a way to possibly rectify the issue.
“But the wear-and-tear and the rigors of pitching tends to take everybody down that road at some point in their career,” Price added.
“Yes, Tony is an interesting subject in that his arm comes through late in his delivery and that creates great deception and movement. It is one of the reasons he can throw 80 per cent fastballs and have success when he is feeling good. Sometimes if you worry about cleaning a guy up they lose that deception, lose that thing that is special about what they do.”
PRICE SAID THAT is why the Reds are reluctant to change him after he cruised through the minors and had instant success in the majors — until his shoulder aches surfaced.
“It is something we have been aware of since we drafted him (third round, 2011), that his arm gets up a little bit late,” said Price.
Price invoked the names of Sid Fernandez (New York Mets) and John Tudor (St. Louis Cardinals), guys who had fastballs that didn’t approach the velocity of Cingran’s fastballs, “But they got a lot of swings at that elevated fastball. Tony has that same gift and it is what makes him special.”
PRICE PAUSED A bit and finally said, “So, we have to look at it and make the best decision, if we need to address it, or if he just has a strength deficit and we need to get him stronger.”
Price also brought up Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto, who had early-career shoulder tenderness and the team smoothed them out by putting them on stringent shoulder strengthening programs. “Now their shoulder issues are a thing of the past and we hope it will be the same with Tony,” said Price.
THE REDS, one of baseball’s best defensive teams over the past few seasons, have made nine errors in their first three exhibition games. There is, though, no cause for concern — at least not in manager Bryan Price’s eyes.
Price actually laughed when the nine errors were brought up and he said, “We’re playing guys all over, different positions,” he said. “We’ve had a few complaints about the (roughness) of the infield here in Goodyear, too. And we’ve had a bunch of kids who played rookie ball at Billings (Mont.) last year on the field late in a game Thursday.
“We are not representing ourselves the way we are used to seeing it defensively, but it is early in camp with a lot of new, young, excited players. It will improve exponentially throughout the month.”
CATCHER TUCKER BARNHART, who once earned a Gold Glove as the best catcher in the entire minors leagues, has shown some throwing problems during workouts this spring.
And early in a game Friday against the Chicago Cubs he threw a ball into center field for an error. But later in the game he did throw out a would-be base-stealer.
“It looks like he is just building his arm strength and he doesn’t have a throwing issue,” said Price. “He hasn’t been accurate this spring, but his last throw (to get a runner at second) is more indicative of what we’ve seen in the past. He has a ways to go in building up his regular season arm strength. Because of that right now he tries to get rid of the ball quicker and his accuracy suffers.”
BARNHART MADE THE Opening Day roster last year when Devin Mesoraco was on the disabled list, but quickly returned to Class AAA Louisville when Mesoraco return. He came back in September and played well defensively but hit only .185 in 54 at-bats.
And with the Reds planning to keep 12 pitchers it isn’t likely they’ll keep three catchers and Barnhart is behind Mesoraco and Brayan Pena. So back to Louisville it is for him.