CHICAGO – As he watched Brandon Finnegan relieve for the Royals on Monday at Yankee Stadium, assistant general manager J.J. Picollo catalogued all the subtle changes that had occurred to Finnegan since he was drafted last June. He had started for three seasons at Texas Christian University, but spent more time in the bullpen as a professional.
To Picollo, Finnegan now threw from a lower arm slot with some glitches in his delivery. He had scrapped his curveball and ditched the windup. To fix Finnegan, the organization has decided to return him to the starting rotation for Class AAA Omaha. Finnegan will debut with about a 60-pitch limit on Saturday.
"I went to Dayton the next day," Picollo said. "And I said, ‘We’ve got to get him back to what he was doing last April and last May. We’ve got a lot of people who believe he can start. And there’s certainly good reason for us to start him right now, because he might be the guy who starts for us [later this season].’"
Finnegan will likely throw about 60 pitches in each of his first two starts for the Storm Chasers, Picollo said. From there he will expand to 75 pitches and then 90 pitches. The team expects him to resume throwing his curveball along with his fastball, changeup and slider. He will also stop pitching solely from the stretch.
Finnegan has been a useful pitcher for Kansas City this season, with a 1.92 ERA in five appearances. He saved his temporary teammates on Monday with a three-inning stint. Yet the big-league bullpen does not feature many pitchers with options, so opportunities for Finnegan to contribute are limited. So he will start, which the organization believed was his future path when they drafted him.
The decision represents an alteration of the plans the Royals had for Finnegan this season. He began the season working as a starter on about a 45-pitch limit in Class AA Northwest Arkansas. The team promoted him to Omaha because he was clearly better than the Texas League competition. They moved him into the bullpen in Omaha because they felt he could best contribute in 2015 as a reliever.
But as their rotation continues to struggle, the Royals are searching for depth. The team feels shifting Finnegan to the bullpen which help correct some of the flaws in his mechanics and also provide the team with a quality left-handed starter.
"If you look at our big-league team, [Danny Duffy’s] on the DL, [Jeremy] Guthrie’s up and down, you want to have as many options as you can," Picollo said. "This is a guy who can at least be an option for us."