Reds pitcher Finnegan confident he’ll return to form

There is a thin line between confidence and swagger. Brandon Finnegan straddles it.

The most productive pitcher from the Johnny Cueto trade with Kansas City, Finnegan does everything full speed.

He pitched in the major leagues the year he was drafted. He is the only player to pitch in the College World Series and the World Series the same season. He made the transition from bullpen to starter the next season.

He had avoided injury his entire playing career until last season, when he went through a career’s worth of injuries and rehab.

“Now I know what to do on rehab,” Finnegan said. “I’ve done it three times.”

That’s three times in less than a calender year.

Finnegan, 24, is already in his fifth major-league season. He made three April starts last season, one a seven-inning gem, then strained his left lat/trapezius, leaving an April 15 start after two innings. After recovering and making rehab starts at Pensacola and Louisville, Finnegan made what turned out to be his last start of the season June 26 at St. Louis, leaving after three innings with a strained teres major muscle.

As bad as those injuries were, Finnegan also suffered a major dislocation of his right shoulder while getting off a boat. He had surgery July 7.

This spring, the Reds are confident he’ll make the rotation, but “we want to see him pitch some bullpens and live batting practice before we slot him,” manager Bryan Price said after naming him as one of the four likely starters.

“I’ve been ready since I left for the off season,” a confident Finnegan said. “Last year was tough. I’m not saying I’m the key, but it was rough watching the team lose and wanting to help.”

Finnegan’s brashness showed in his response to Price being a bit cautious.

“They saw my bullpen,” he said. “I don’t know what else they want to see.”

Although Price included Finnegan in his list of four starters, he warned them all.

“The good thing is that it is not open tryouts,” Price said. “This is a competitive group. Lack of preparedness will not bode well for anyone who wants to make the rotation.”

“I’ve never had a good spring training,” Finnegan said. “In the past that’s just how it went. I am concentrating on staying healthy. That’s my only goal.”

So far so good. There are no limitations from a health standpoint.

“Finnegan looks really good so far,” Price said. “He’s really working on staying back and not jumping off the rubber as much as he does at times. He can command his stuff better by staying back. When he’s commanding the zone, he’s really tough. When he gets behind (in counts), he gets in trouble and throws too many pitches.

“We certainly have our eyes on all those guys who finished the season on the DL. Finnegan came into camp as ready as the other guys. He really should be 100 percent. That’s 100 percent for early spring training.”

• Spring training is shorter this year, according to baseball’s collective bargaining agreement with the players.

The players were made aware they would have a shorter time to get ready. “They were made fully aware of this at the end of the season,” Price said. “They had to be slightly more advanced in their readiness before they got to spring training.

“I don’t think you can necessarily decrease your game schedule. There are certain commitments there.”

• Scooter Gennett won his arbitration case against the Reds on Saturday. The Reds will pay Gennett $5.7 million for the 2018 season, $600,000 more than the Reds’ figure. Gennett put himself in the record book last season with a four-home run game against the Cardinals that included a grand slam.

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