Tony Cingrani walked down a hall and hesitated at a door before walking in and said, "It's been a while since I've been here"

It was the trainer's room in the Cincinnati Reds spring training complex, a place no pitcher wants to visit, especially Tony Cingrani.

The 24-year-old left handed pitcher was in the training room at Great American Ball Park far too much last season for a bad back, a bad back that he tried to hide for three weeks.

It was a rookie mistake, something young players do all the time either to display a macho image or because they worry if they can't play they'll lose their spot.

For Cingrani, a highly confident player almost on the brink of cockiness, it was both. He is macho and he didn't want to miss his opportunity.

Manager Bryan Price, Cingrani's pitching coach last season, said Cingrani hid his back pain for about three weeks and added, "He was trying to be the rookie that isn't seen lingering in the trainer's room and I appreciate that. But it set him back."

Cingrani was a fill-in last year. Every time Johnny Cueto went down, Cingrani stepped in. And it happened three times, enough time for Cingrani to make 18 starts and post a 7-4 record with a 2.92 earned run average with 120 strikeouts in 104 2/3 innings.

"I felt something in my back for a few starts, but it was manageable, it really wasn't that bad until that one start against Arizona when it really bit me in the butt," said Cingrani of his 5-2 loss on August 20. A few days later he was on the disabled list. "I really couldn't even stand up any more."

Cingrani said he went through normal strengthening activities in the off-season to make sure that part of his body remains strong for the upcoming season.

With Bronson Arroyo gone, it is Tony Cingrani time. He is on the board as the team's fifth starter and he wishes tomorrow was Opening Day. "I'm so excited," said the 6-foot-4, 215-pound native of Evergreen, Ill. "If I can just break camp with the big team, stay healthy all spring and go with them for the first game that would be awesome."

Cingrani is counted upon for more than just making the team. His work schedule is planned for every fifth day.