Considered one of the best young arms in baseball, Jose Fernandez continues to impress for the Miami Marlins.
With Johnny Cueto sidelined, the Cincinnati Reds are expecting big things from 23-year-old Tony Cingrani.
Major league-worst Miami is hoping to have slugger Giancarlo Stanton back Thursday night as Fernandez takes the mound opposite Cingrani in the opener of this four-game set at Great American Ball Park.
After allowing one run and striking out eight over five innings in his big league debut April 7 against the Mets, the 20-year-old Fernandez (0-0, 0.82 ERA) dazzled again Saturday against Philadelphia, surrendering two hits and two walks over six scoreless frames.
"He's good. He's got good stuff," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told MLB's official website. "I was surprised he got his breaking ball and threw his changeup and got it over like he did. That impressed me as much as his fastball. His fastball is good. He's young. He's good. He's got a chance to be very good."
The Reds (8-7) believe Cingrani does, too. The left-hander will be recalled from Triple-A Louisville to fill in for Cueto, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a back injury.
"That's what the depth of the organization is about," manager Dusty Baker told the team's official website. "We're here to win ballgames and not see who the next rising star is, even though it's exciting. We want him to fit in like we hope he does."
In three minor league starts this year, Cingrani struck out a whopping 26 over 14 1-3 scoreless innings. He was pulled after just two innings and 45 pitches Sunday as a result of Cueto's injury.
Cingrani, the first Reds lefty to start since Dontrelle Willis on Sept. 29, 2011, compiled a 1.80 ERA and fanned nine in five innings over three relief appearances last year. He struck out three over 1 1-3 innings at Miami on Sept. 15.
"That helps quite a bit actually, because you know that you can pitch here," Baker said.
While Cingrani would appear to have a favorable matchup against a Marlins team that ranks last in the majors in runs (32) and homers (three), Miami could get a boost from Stanton, who's expected to return following a six-game absence due to a bruised left shoulder.
The slugging right fielder is batting just .167 with no RBIs in nine games, though.
"He should be good to go," manager Mike Redmond said. "We all know how important he is to this lineup. ... I'd love to be able to write it down, that this is our right-handed lineup, and this is our left-handed lineup, and let's go get 'em. We haven't had that. (Thursday), we hope that is the start of having a more stable lineup."
Miami (3-12), which has dropped 16 of 21 in Cincinnati, could have its hands full again Thursday.
Coming off a three-game sweep of Philadelphia, the Reds have hit .342 with runners in scoring position and outscored opponents 53-22 during a 7-1 stretch at home. Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier both homered and Brandon Phillips went 2 for 2 with three RBIs in Wednesday's 11-2 victory.
"The only thing better than hits are more hits," Baker said. "It was a beautiful thing."
The Marlins concluded a 2-7 homestand by dropping two of three to Washington, including Wednesday's 6-1 loss. Placido Polanco finished 2 for 4 to raise his average to .327, but Miami went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
"Everything is magnified right now because we're not able to put a big number on the board," Redmond said.