The Marlins' Jose Fernandez has two Major League starts under his belt. Surprisingly, that's more than his counterpart for Thursday night's game against the Reds at Great American Ball Park.
Cincinnati's Tony Cingrani will make his first big league start in the opener of a four-game series, the first meeting between the teams this season. The 23-year-old left-hander, who is three years older than Fernandez, is being called up from Triple-A Louisville to replace injured ace Johnny Cueto.
Cingrani, the Reds' third-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Rice, is the team's No. 3 prospect. He hadn't allowed a run in three starts at Louisville this season, striking out 26 in 14 1/3 innings.
Cingrani is not completely without big league experience. He made three relief appearances for the Reds last season, including against the Marlins on Sept. 15, when he struck out three in a scoreless 1 1/3 innings.
"That helps quite a bit actually, because you know that you can pitch here," manager Dusty Baker said.
The Reds will hope Cingrani's transition to starting in the big leagues is as smooth as the one Fernandez has experienced. The right-hander, who leapt straight from Class A, has allowed only one run on five hits in 11 innings, striking out 13. That's tied for the fourth-most strikeouts in Marlins history by a pitcher in his first two starts.
"It's just fun," Fernandez said. "When I come to the park every day, knowing you're going to face the best players in the world every day. When I'm not pitching, I'm glad to be in the dugout watching the guys hitting, and what they do, and how they handle themselves. I'm learning. I'm a kid. I'm trying to learn as much as I can, and help my teammates out, and try to have fun."
This series will provide Fernandez with an opportunity to meet Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, a fellow Cuban defector. Fernandez defected five years ago and was taken in the first round of the 2011 Draft out of Braulio Alonso High School in Tampa, Fla.
Marlins: Stanton back in the fold
Right fielder Giancarlo Stanton is scheduled to return to the lineup on Thursday after missing six games with a bruised left shoulder. Stanton initially suffered the injury while making a diving catch against the Mets on April 6, although he continued playing until being scratched from the lineup on Friday.
"Obviously, we all know how important he is to our team and our lineup," manager Mike Redmond said.
Stanton is still looking for his first home run of the season after blasting 37 a year ago. He is off to a 5-for-30 (.167) start, with two doubles and no RBIs.
• Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria was scratched from the lineup on Wednesday with a sore right elbow after participating in batting practice. Chris Valaika started in his place.
Reds: Cozart getting it going at plate
Shortstop Zack Cozart had his second three-hit effort in his last five contests on Wednesday, when he doubled, homered and drove in two runs. He also collected three hits on Saturday against the Pirates.
Since that game, Cozart has raised his average from .114 to .228. He also has been flashing his power, with four home runs. Last season he didn't hit his fourth until May 21.
• Second baseman Brandon Phillips already has nine multi-hit games this season, including Wednesday, and is tied for the Major League lead with 19 RBIs. He is 8-for-19 (.421) with two home runs and 11 RBIs in his past five games.
• Cingrani's outing will end the Reds' streak of 180 consecutive games without using a left-handed starter, which tied a franchise record. Dontrelle Willis was the last lefty to start for Cincinnati, on Sept. 29, 2011.
• The Marlins are 13-19 all-time at Great American Ball Park, including 2-1 in 2012, when they opened the season there.
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.