'Breaking' news: Cingrani develops cutter

Reds lefty works in offseason to add another pitch offering

February 22nd, 2017

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds left-hander Tony Cingrani can throw his four-seam fastball 95 mph, and consistent with his career, he used it often in 2016. It was so often that PITCHf/x data showed he threw his fastball more than 87 percent of the time.

Cingrani started using a split-fingered fastball sometime in the second half, but he realized it was time to diversify the repertoire even more. He needed a breaking ball and used the offseason to develop a cut fastball.

"It's just another way to get guys out," Cingrani said. "It gets hitters off thinking it's just going to be a fastball. I'm still trying to work on how I want that ball to move, but it's good and feels comfortable."

At the suggestion of teammate and fellow reliever , Cingrani traveled to Kent, Wash., in the fall and worked out at Driveline Baseball. The facility, owned by Kyle Boddy, has gained a reputation for providing data-driven pitch training and also encourages building arm strength by playing catch with weighted balls.

"Caleb is a pretty smart cat," Cingrani said. "The weighted-ball stuff, you can fine-tune that to whatever you want to make it. Having that TrackMan stuff up there and dealing with Kyle, he's seen so many guys throw and how the ball moves. He can adjust grips and is just really good."

Boddy taught Cingrani the cutter grip and how to throw it.

"I went up there to see what was going on. I didn't expect Kyle to do anything crazy, but he was really good," Cingrani said. "He was literally like, 'Take this grip, hold it and throw the [crap] out of it.' I was like, 'All right, that's what I will do.'

"They made up a whole program for me. I kind of stuck to it but I like to do my own thing. They'll break it down to pitch-building days -- where four out of five throws will be that pitch and four sets of that. Nothing crazy, but they make you throw it a lot and make it feel comfortable."

As for the weighted balls, Cingrani this spring has thrown a 9-ounce ball and a 7-ounce ball before picking up the regular 5-ounce baseball.

"It keeps you tight and lets you find that [arm] path," he said.

Cingrani, 27, led the Reds with 17 saves in 2016 while posting a 4.14 ERA in 65 appearances. It was his first fully healthy season in a few years, but command was an issue. He had a walk rate of 5.3 per nine innings and nearly half of the first batters he faced reached base (31 of 65), while 11 of 29 inherited baserunners scored.

"I think some sort of a breaking pitch -- either a cutter or a hard slider -- will open up a whole new world to Tony and give him an opportunity to exceed what he has accomplished to this point," Reds manager Bryan Price said.

Cingrani, who avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $1.85 million contract, is expected to be part of a four-man group to finish games for the Reds. He didn't seem to mind but also wasn't sure how it would work when the season started.

"I don't care. We'll see what happens when the lights go on," Cingrani said.