Cingrani struggles continue, rotation decision looms

Tony Cingrani hasn't helped his own argument when it comes to remaining in the Reds rotation, including Monday's 6-2 loss to Los Angeles.

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Tony Cingrani throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning of a baseball game, Monday, June 9, 2014, in Cincinnati. 

Al Behrman / AP Photo

CINCINNATI -- Tony Cingrani was his own worst enemy Monday night against the Dodgers and he knew it.

Three walks led to three runs, half of the career-high total Cingrani allowed in a just 4 2/3 innings as Los Angeles beat the Reds 6-2 at Great American Ball Park. Cingrani gave up seven hits, including a pair of home runs to Scott Van Slyke, as he continues to struggle for a team that has proven it doesn't have much margin for error when it comes to pitching and defense because of its lack of offense.

Cingrani is now 2-7 on the season with a 4.68 ERA. His troubles make him the obvious choice to be taken out of the starting rotation when Mat Latos returns to the team, which could be as soon as this weekend following a fourth rehab start for Triple-A Louisville Monday night. The decision the Reds have to make if Cingrani is indeed the odd man out in the equation is whether he's better suited to pitch out of the bullpen or be sent down to Louisville and pitch every fifth day as a starter.

"The tough thing is that when we add Mat we're going to have 13 major league pitchers here for 12 jobs and we're going to have to try to find a way to make that work," said manager Bryan Price. "That's going to necessitate making a very difficult decision. That doesn't necessarily mean that Tony is not involved in the equation. That's just something we're going to have to talk about organizationally... It's been discussed and we'll come up with what we think is the best decision here in the next few days."

Cingrani said the situation and possibility of demotion hasn't been his problem.

"I'm just trying to pitch," said Cingrani. "I can't be like 'Oh my gawd'. I'm going out there trying to win. That's what I'm trying to do and I'm trying to give my team the best opportunity to win. It's just hard. It's a hard game."

The Reds trailed 3-2 when Cingrani retired Chone Figgins and Hanley Ramirez to begin the fifth inning. He then walked Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to bring up Van Slyke, who had hit a solo home run in the second inning to produce the game's first run. Van Slyke drove a 2-2 pitch into the seats in left field for the decisive blow in the game.

"It's frustrating," said Cingrani. "I gave Van Slyke a pitch to hit and he hit it."

Cingrani threw 97 pitches in the game, 64 for strikes. Los Angeles starter Dan Haren threw 95 pitches in just 5 1/3 innings but walked just two. The Reds got five hits off of Haren but only Ryan Ludwick's solo home run in the fourth inning left the park. The Reds hit into double plays in the sixth, seventh redsand eighth innings against Dodgers relievers to kill rallies.

This is the second straight start Cingrani couldn't make it out of an inning after getting the first two batters out. Last Wednesday the Reds were leading San Francisco 2-0 when Cingrani got two quick outs in the sixth inning. Three batters later the Reds were down 3-2 following a solo home run to Michael Morse and a two-run homer to light hitting Juan Perez.

It was the fifth straight decision Cingrani has lost and the sixth straight game the Reds have lost when he has started. The last time he was on the winning end of a decision was April 24, a 2-1 win in Pittsburgh. He gave up three runs on six hits in four innings his next start against the Cubs at home on April 30. The Reds placed him on the disabled list with tendinitis in his left shoulder the next day.

Cingrani's next start is scheduled for Saturday at Milwaukee but Latos would be lined up to replace him on his normal schedule should the Reds choose to activate him.

"He hasn't been able to have that shutdown inning as he's getting close to his pitch count," said Price about Cingrani. "I'm sure it's frustrating to him. I think he's more than capable, as he's shown, of being a guy who can pitch deeper into games than he has recently. I think very highly of Tony. I think he's just in that spot right now where he's scuffling in that environment and it's come back to bite him with some of the walks."

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