Brandon Finnegan got the start for the Cincinnati Reds on Monday afternoon against the Oakland Athletics in a 13-5 loss. The score of the game doesn’t reflect the job that Finnegan did. The left-hander tossed 2.0 nearly perfect innings, working around an error in the first inning by inducing a double play. He also picked up a strikeout in his second inning of work.
“I thought he was a real bright spot on the day,” said manager David Bell. “Right from the beginning he had total command of his pitches, throwing strikes, attacking the strikezone. Good velocity on his fastball, but also a real good ability to throw the breaking stuff for strikes. He looked outstanding. Really happy for him to get that one in in his first outing, I think he can really build off of that. Really nice to see.”
Velocity on the fastball is something that is quite important for Brandon Finnegan. It’s important for all pitchers, of course, but for Finnegan, he went through a period of time where he seemingly lost 3-4 MPH and with it, lost any and all effectiveness. A shoulder injury didn’t help with any of that, but he’s been working back to his old levels.
“From what I saw it was 93-94, maybe a 92 in there,” said Finnegan after the game. “But I felt pretty good. Ball was coming out good. I was very happy with my change up, slider, and curveball – everything I threw I felt happy about. The movement on it was good, I thought. MY main focus today was come out and pound the zone and let the defense work. They were free swinging from pitch one, so I was just happy to miss barrels.”
There was a lot that went into getting back to that velocity. After a disastrous 2018 season, the Cincinnati Reds had Brandon Finnegan head to a Driveline Baseball facility to work on all kinds of things with regards to his pitching, but one of the focuses was getting back some velocity, as he had dipped into the upper 80’s and low 90’s range instead of the 92-94 range (and touching higher) that he had been at when he was at his best as a starting pitcher. The lefty missed much of the 2019 season, only returning late in the year when he headed off to Double-A Chattanooga for a handful of games as a reliever.
“I’ve just been working (to get back),” Finnegan said. “It did suck missing pretty much three quarters of 2019 to go to Driveline, but I can’t say it didn’t help me. I came back and my velo was back up and I threw the ball really well with the exception of two innings when I was sporadic with all of my pitches. I’ve just been working on getting back to who I am as a pitcher and who I’ve always been. Besides 2018, I’ve been really happy with my career so far. Obviously that was a very, very down year for me, or anybody that had those type of numbers. But I’ve just been trying to keep my blinders on and moving forward, realizing the only thing in my control is how hard I work and what I do on the mound is just go out there and attack. That’s what I’ve been trying to get back to. A year like 2018 can mess with anybody’s mind, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t mess me up a little bit. But I feel like I got back to it once I got back into games in ’19. I was really happy with the way I threw in ’19. I was really happy with how I threw in spring training and at the alternate site last year.”
It wasn’t just the velocity that was good to see today from Brandon Finnegan. He also unveiled a new pitch early on to Stephen Piscotty, throwing him a curveball that he didn’t have until just before he headed out for spring training.
“The only thing I did add last year in the offseason was a curveball. I actually went back to Driveline for a little evaluation before spring training and the guy I worked with, Bill, said ‘hey, what do you think about adding a curveball?’ and actually I told him that I had that in mind when I was going out there. I was kind of wanting to add something, maybe, and he said he thought it would be a good idea to add a curveball so I added that. It’s actually been a big pitch. I threw one today, it was the first pitch to Piscotty, it was a little down but I was happy with the action on it because usually the first one I throw in a game, I usually just airmail it. I was pretty happy with the outcome today, that one curveball I did throw I was happy with the action, but that’s the only thing I’ve added or changed.”
For Brandon Finnegan, he’s happy with where he’s at with regards to his stuff and he’s looking for an opportunity. He’s not technically in big league camp – he’s one of the 18 players in “early minor league camp”, but those guys will be spending plenty of time with the big league club during the spring. That’s going to make it a bit tougher for him to win a spot on the 26-man opening day roster, but it’s not unheard of for something like that to happen – it’s just rare. As for the role he’s going to have, whether it’s with the big league club or the minor league team he winds up on when the season begins, he’s not entirely sure.
“I could not tell you if I’m going to be a starter,” said Finnegan. “I don’t know. Right now I’m just rolling with he punches. Whatever they tell me to do I’m going to do. I’m just thankful that I’m healthy and I feel great. I’m in a great state of mind and body, I’m just going to go out there and compete every time I touch the mound. “