Reds ship struggling Cingrani to Louisville

Earlier this season, Reds manager Bryan Price talked about how hard it is to get to the big leagues and stick there. Even many of the game’s stars find themselves bouncing between the minors and the majors early in their careers.

Brandon Phillips, for example, played 112 games for the Indians in 2003 and then a total of 12 big league games in the next two seasons. Homer Bailey had a similar experience early in his career. Even Mike Leake, who famously made his professional debut in the majors, skipping the minors all together, got sent down to Triple-A Louisville for two appearances in 2011.

If Tony Cingrani needs a silver lining after being optioned to Louisville on Friday, he ought to flip through the Reds media guide and read about his teammates. Reliever Jumbo Diaz takes his place on the roster and will make this big league debut when he pitches after 12 seasons in the minors, but the Reds expect Cingrani to return to the majors sooner than later.

“This was an area where performance was key, and he’s not pitching to his ability,” said Price before the start of a three-game series against the Blue Jays at Great American Ball Park. “We had some other situations early in the year with (J.J.) Hoover and (Logan) Ondrusek when they weren’t throwing the ball terribly well, but we felt like with their past history, they were going to pitch through it.”

Cingrani fell to 2-8 with a 4.55 ERA after walking in the winning run Thursday in Pittsburgh. His control deserted him this season. He had 43 walks in 104 2/3 innings last season, an average of 0.41 walks per inning. This season, he averaged 0.55 walks per inning (35 in 63 1/3 innings).

“He struggled a bit as a starter in his last several starts,” Price said, “and in the two times he came on in relief, he wasn’t really sharp. It just seemed like things weren’t turning around for him.”

Cingrani made his big league debut in September 2012 and appeared in six games for Louisville last season. He will return to a starting role in Louisville.

“That gives him a chance to know when he’s going to throw, to know when he’s going to have a side day,” Price said. “I think the side days are going to be important, but when he comes back here, if we have no injuries, he’d be coming back as a reliever.”