Brandon Finnegan had a flawless outing for the Cincinnati Reds during their spring game on Tuesday. Is the left-hander a lock for a spot on team?
Brandon Finnegan seems to be lost in the shuffle among the Cincinnati Reds pitching staff. After starting just five games last season, Finnegan fell out of favor with the previous coaching staff and never returned after his demotion to Triple-A. Finnegan now seems to have an outside chance to make the roster out of Spring Training.
The 2018 season was not a good one for Brandon Finnegan. He started the season as part of the Reds starting rotation, but things did not go well. Finnegan went 0-3 in 5 starts with a 7.40 ERA through just 20.2 innings pitched before being sent down to Triple-A Louisville for the remainder of the season once the club acquired right-hander Matt Harvey in a trade with the New York Mets.
Finnegan did not take the demotion well, as he felt like Jim Riggleman and the previous coaching staff did not have any confidence in him. Finnegan, in an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer via MLB.com, was quick to point out his frustration with Riggleman’s use of the bullpen:
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"“I felt like I had two pretty good starts up in Cincinnati. You can’t do anything about getting taken out of the game after 70 pitches. Riggleman loves using the bullpen; that’s his thing. That part was out of my hands. Besides that, two of my five starts I had, I thought were pretty good. I was attacking guys.”"
The two starts that Finnegan was referencing, were most likely his game against the Atlanta Braves on April 25th and the following start on April 30th against Milwaukee Brewers. Both resulted in a loss for the Cincinnati Reds.
In those 2 games, Finnegan combined for 10 innings pitched, 6 strikeouts, 4 walks, and an ERA of 4.50. That’s not necessarily worthy of praise, but name a starter on last year’s team that deserved praise early in the year.
Brandon Finnegan was supposed to be the centerpiece of the Cincinnati Reds trade of Johnny Cueto to the Kansas City Royals in 2015. Finnegan, Cody Reed, and John Lamb came to Queen City in exchange for Cueto. None of the three players acquired in that trade have panned out as the Reds had hoped, but Finnegan probably still possesses the most talent among the trio that came to Cincinnati.
It appears as though Finnegan will part of the team’s plans this upcoming season. Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell, via Reds.com, was very effusive of his praise for Finnegan following his one inning of work following the 4-3 loss against the Giants on Tuesday.
"“Our approach is really just to build him up to a point of keeping the options open. Two, three, four innings and kind of seeing where we are, seeing how the staff shapes up. Just allowing him to be in a good spot with his workload to where he can slot in and help us at any point in any role.”"
So, if Finnegan is in, who’s out? Bell has said throughout camp that he expects to carry 13 pitchers on the roster. I tend to think that out of Spring Training, with the amount of off days early in the season, that number will actually be 12. However, after the third week of the season, the schedule becomes more crammed and I’d expect the roster to fluctuate.
Alex Wood, Anthony DeSclafani, Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tanner Roark are plugged in as starters. That much we know. Add in Jared Hughes, David Hernández, Amir Garrett, Raisel Iglesias, Zach Duke, and Michael Lorenzen as locks for the bullpen. That means 11 of the 12 spots are spoken for.
Does Finnegan make the roster over Sal Romano? What about Tyler Mahle or Cody Reed? Robert Stephenson is out of options and would certainly be picked up by another club if the Reds let him go after Spring Training. Matt Wisler is also out of options.
Finnegan is still just 25-years-old, has minor league options, and is pre-arbitration eligible. If the Reds still feel as though Finnegan has some value to the team, especially with a new pitching coach on board, they owe it to themselves to exhaust every option and try to get Finnegan back to the player he was when the Royals took him with their first selection in the 2014 MLB Draft.
Is Brandon Finnegan a lock to make the Cincinnati Reds roster out of Spring Training? I wouldn’t go that far just yet. But, if he can build on Tuesday’s performance, Finnegan has as good a chance as anyone for that last spot in the Reds bullpen.