GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Reds already have starting pitching depth at the big league level with six starters competing for the five spots. But a seventh starter seems right around the corner in Tony Cingrani.
Barring a calamity to the big league rotation this spring, the left-handed Cingrani is likely to begin the season at Triple-A Louisville. On the fast track since he was a third-round Draft pick in 2011, he started last season at Class A Advanced and ended it in the Majors.
"He's in the mix. He's confident enough that he thinks he has a chance to make this club, which is how you're supposed to think," Reds manager Dusty Baker said on Friday morning. "You don't know what's going to happen at any time. You just go out and pitch your game, and everything will take care of itself."
Cingrani, 23, started the Cactus League opener vs. the Indians on Friday afternoon and allowed three runs and three hits with one walk and one strikeout in his one inning. He escaped more damage by ending the inning with a pickoff at first base.
"It went pretty well. I need to keep the ball down a little bit," Cingrani said. "As long as I keep the ball down, I think it will be more successful next time. … This outing, I threw a lot of fastballs. I mixed in one slider. We just stuck with the fastball this time around. Next time, we'll mix some more pitches in there."
Cingrani was the organization's Minor League pitcher of the year for 2012, after he was 10-4 with a 1.73 ERA in 26 games (25 starts) at Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola. Over 146 innings, he walked 52 batters and struck out 172. In three relief appearances for the Reds, he allowed one run over five innings.
The September callup was invaluable to Cingrani, who has only one full pro season under his belt.
"It was awesome pitching in front of that many fans and meeting all of these guys," Cingrani said. "I think it was really big coming up then coming to Spring Training this year. I think it helped a lot."
Baker considers Cingrani a power pitcher from the left side.
"You don't have to throw very hard to be a power left-hander. He's one of them," Baker said. "He's a guy that can pitch off his fastball, which is great.
"He handled it pretty good last year when he came up, and we were in a pennant race. This kid performed well. Every time they do something at the big level, their confidence rises. I've always said the hardest thing to being in the big leagues is realizing you belong here."