CINCINNATI — Brandon Finnegan/ feels like baseball’s version of a standard Duncan Yo-Yo — up and down up and down up and down. Or maybe he is a puppet on a string.
He starts. He pitches in relief. He starts. He pitches in relief.
When the Cincinnati Reds acquired the left handed pitcher from the Kansas City Royals in the Johnny Cueto trade, he was pitching in relief.
THE REDS SEE HIS future as a starter, as does Finnegan. So they put him in the Class AAA Louisville rotation after the trade and his numbers were three shades below awful.
But they called him up Tuesday and guess where he’ll be? Yep. In the bullpen.
“We still have our same starting five in the rotation (Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Keyvius Sampson, Michael Lorenzen, John Lamb)” said manager Bryan Price. “So Brandon will start in the bullpen, a spot he has filled (with Kansas City) very well. However there will be times when we might use him as starter. Right now he is a swingman.”
That’s fine with Finnegan right now. He is more than happy to be wearing a big league uniform, but his ultimate goal is a spot in the rotation.
“I like starting. I love it,” he said. “I’ve done it my whole life and that’s what I want to do, show people I can start at this level,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. I can fall back on the relief role. That has worked so far.”
THEY LIST FINNEGAN as 5-foot-11, but he looks more Fred Norman-esque, at 5-8 or 5-9. Norman, the dandy lifttle left hander was a starter at 5-foot-7 in The Big Red Machine roattion. Finnegal was a starting pitcher for Texas Christian University in 2014 and pitched in the College World Series, always as a starter with the Horned Frogs.
The Kansas City Royals drafted him No. 1 in June, 2014 and by season’s end he was with the Royals, pitching in relief, and appeared several times in the post-season. He is the only player to appear in the College World Series and Major League World Series in the same year.
“It’s awesome to be here with the Reds and to meet all the new guys in a new organization,” he said. “They’ve been great to me.”
FINNEGAN INSISTS HIS putrid numbers as a starter at Louisville are not indicators of how he pitched after he transitioned once again from relief pitcher back to starter.
“The transition of going from a reliever to a starter wasn’t going that well this year,” he said. “My stuff has been great but the outcomes just weren’t where I wanted them to be.” In eight starts with the Bats Finnegan was 0-and-3 with a 6.23 earned run average.
“Jumping back and fourth between the bullpen and starting makes it tough because I haven’t been able to establish a routine,” he said. “I was up and down all the time with KC. I’d make one or two starts and then go to the pen. That’s just what they needed. Nothing against them. I understood that. That’s how the game goes. I haven’t been in a starting routine for a long time and I had to get back into it.”
NOW HE IS GOING back to a bullpen routine for now.
“I didn’t expect to come right in here and start because they have five guys doing just fine,” he said. “Once somebody reaches their innings limit something might change. That’s on them. Whatever they want. I’m just here and glad to be here.”
Finnegan does hope he has an idea of his role before spring training because he went through not knowing last year and it wasn’t good.
“I went to spring training this year not knowing what I was going to do,” he said. ‘When I came in my arm was out of shape so I wasn’t ready to go. They sent me to Double A and I started and I threw well. As soon as I got two starts I left for Kansas City. I made a start, went to the pen, went back down, came back up. I was just all over the place. I couldn’t get into the starting routine and it was tough.”
BILLY HAMILTON WAS a late afternoon arrival from his three-game assignment with Class AA Pensacola, so he wasn’t in Tuesday’s lineup.
He’ll be in the lineup Wednesday and he’ll bat ninth, as he has done most of the second half.
Well, how about next season? Will Hamilton be moved back into the leadoff spot? Not necessarily so, says manager Bryan Price.
“I feel he is a leadoff man of the future,” said Price. “He is a young man, but we all know he has to improve. He has to get on base at a much higher rate than he has in his first couple of years at the major league level.
“To hold that type of responsibility (leadoff) he has to be a guy who can utilize his speed at the top of the order by getting on base. When that improves he will see his position in the lineup be elevated. Until then, he’ll hit toward the bottom.”
ANOTHER CALL-UP Tuesday wss injury-crossed left handed pitcher Tony Cingrani, another pitcher who has bounced from bullpen to starter to bullpen. He’ll be in the bullpen the rest of this season.
“Staying healthy is going to be key for Cingrtani,” said Price. “He has had a few different issues staying on the field. We hope he can come in and do some matchup pitching for us (against left handers). He has been a multi-innings guy in Triple-A, but I see him doing matchup stuff for now.”
RAISEL IGLESIAS is creating stirs with his strikeouts and heading into Tuesday night’s assignment against the Pittsburgh Pirates he had struck out 33 in his lasst three starts — 13, 10, 10.
Those strikeouts, though, are inconsequential to Price.
“For me the strikeouts are inconsequential in the fact he gives us a chance to win and he pitches deep into games (seven innings in each of his last three starts),” said Price. “The strikeouts are something I would have enjoyed more as a kid, but as manager I am just looking for victories and well-pitched games.”
With all the strikeouts and the well-pitched games, iglesias entered Tuesday’s game with a 3-6 record and a 3.81 ERA.
“Raisel hasn’t had a lot of wins to show for his pitching success, however he has given us many opportunities to win,” Price added. “Strikeouts or no strikeouts, pitching into the seventh innings leaves us in pretty good shape.”