Brandon Finnegan will resume his career as a starting pitcher in part of a loaded rotation at Class AA Northwest Arkansas, general manager Dayton Moore confirmed on Monday morning.
The team optioned Finnegan to Northwest Arkansas on Sunday. He arrived at camp with the initial impression he would either make the big-league club as a reliever or head to Class AAA Omaha as a starter. The team has opted for a more conservative approach with Finnegan, who has only made five starts as a professional, all brief outings last summer with Class A Wilmington.
“We think that’s the best place for him to start,” Moore said in a telephone interview. “I mean, we could do it either way. But as I’ve said before, we’re still learning about Brandon.”
Finnegan is expected to join fellow top prospects Sean Manaea, Miguel Almonte and Christian Binford in the Naturals rotation. Baseball America featured Manaea (No. 81), Almonte (No. 84) and Finnegan (No. 55) in its list of the game’s top 100 prospects. Binford profiles as more of a back-end starter, but he is the organization’s reigning minor-league pitcher of the year.
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Moore sees a benefit to grouping these players together. “I think they’re all terrific competitors,” Moore said. “And because of that, they feed off one another. They challenge one another. It’s a healthy competition that exists. I think it creates a great atmosphere on the team, as well.”
Finnegan tallied 145 2/3 innings between Texas Christian University, Wilmington, Northwest Arkansas and the majors in 2014. The club will be careful with his usage at the outset. Finnegan has only pitched a four-inning stint twice as a professional. He operated under strict regulations last summer as the club rocketed him to the majors to pitch in relief.
“Our medical team is very content with where he is,” Moore said. “But, let’s face it: It’s moved very, very fast for Brandon. We have to take into his account his workload over the last 18 months. That’s what we continue to evaluate.”
Moore indicated that he was not disappointed with Finnegan’s performance this spring. Finnegan tweaked his hamstring early in camp and never discovered his usual command. He finished with an 8.53 ERA in four starts.
“We felt very good about the quality of his stuff and the way he presented himself,” Moore said. “He’s a big part of our future.”