The Royals will continue to keep their options open with rookie southpaw Brandon Finnegan, as the club is not ready yet to send him to the minor leagues to work as a starting pitcher. Despite middling results in the Cactus League, Finnegan will remain in the competition for one of the final spots in the big-league bullpen.
After giving up a pair of runs in a two-inning appearance on Tuesday, Finnegan will not pitch again until Saturday. Manager Ned Yost indicated that he would throw one or two frames in the club’s attempt to refine his command and delivery.
“We’re trying to sharpen him up,” Yost said on Wednesday morning. “So now we’re going to have him at 45 pitches. Wasn’t sharp (last time). So we’ll back him off a little bit, see if we can get him sharp, and once we get him sharp, then we can start extending him out again.”
Yost indicated that the club would not make a decision for another 10 days. Or, at least, he told a pair of reporters not to ask him about Finnegan for another 10 days.
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Baseball America ranked Finnegan 55th on their annual list of the game’s top 100 prospects. His importance to the franchise is significant. But he has not performed particularly well here in camp, especially compared to Franklin Morales, his chief competition, and even newcomer Brian Flynn.
Flynn has given up two earned runs in eight innings. Morales has tossed six scoreless innings. Finnegan has a 7.20 ERA after three outings.
The team has two openings in their bullpen, since Luke Hochevar will likely begin the season on the disabled list as he returns from Tommy John surgery. Morales looks close to a lock to make the club. Yost has also repeatedly mentioned the merits of Louis Coleman, the sidewinding right-hander who is out of minor-league options.
There is a segment of the organization that believes the best course for Finnegan involves gaining seasoning as a starter this year. The Royals drafted him for this purpose. Finnegan’s performance last September and October opened the club’s eyes to his value as a reliever in the present.
Finnegan has yet to find that form here in Surprise. Yost declined to chalk it up to his youth and inexperience. But Finnegan, 21, is in only his first big-league camp. He is the youngest pitcher in the clubhouse.
“When you look at it, in reality, there’s very few spots left open in that ‘pen,” Yost said. “Does he fit in that spot? If he doesn’t fit in that spot, then he’s got to go to Class AAA and be a starting pitcher. We’re trying to keep his pitch count up, where if he does, he doesn’t haven’t a whole long way to go to catch back up. And if he doesn’t, he’s right on track.”