- By Gary Schatz Contributing Writer
Reds left-hander Brandon Finnegan didn’t have to wait untill 1 p.m. to get on the Goodyear Ball Park mound on Thursday. He pitched at 11:15 a.m. instead.
The bad news about that? It was on one of the back fields in a simulated game.
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“We had a kind of scrimmage with big league hitters,” manager Bryan Price said. “We had our (minor league) strength camp kids out there playing defense.
“We wanted to control the environment,” added Price, who insists Finnegan hasn’t had any setbacks. “He had some rough weather when he was at home too, so he missed a couple bullpens. I don’t want to say he was behind but it lent itself into being a little more cautious.”
Finnegan, 24, was limited to four starts in 2017 due to injury. He injured a muscle near his shoulder in April and was on the disabled list until late June. In his return off the DL against the Cardinals, he re-aggravated the injury. A month later he tore the labrum in his right shoulder in a boating accident.
There was an anxious moment with the first batter Finnegan faced. Jesse Winker broke his bat on a slow ground ball to first base, forcing Finnegan to cover. The flip was high, forcing Finnegan to jump for it and find the base, which he did.
Phil Gosselin hit a home run but Finnegan broke Scott Schebler’s bat with a change-up.
“Today was just a day to get out there and face live hitters,” Finnegan said. “I definitely got to do that. It was the first time I got up and down since June. It was definitley a different feeling. I felt great threw all my pitches. I broke a couple bats. I’m only upset with one pitch so I’m happy.”
Breaking Schebler’s bat was a highlight for Finnegan.
“You get in the locker room and talk smack,” he said. “I told Schebler I’d break one of his bats. Then he got the hit off me.”
The next step is to get on the mound to face Major League opponents.
“I hope to get in a game the next time,” Finnegan said. “I was definitely upset about that (not pitching in a game) but I completely understand. They wanted it to be a controlled environment. They wanted to see me face live hitters before I get back on the field. That’s over with.”
The Reds have less time to sort through players, especially pitchers, with a shorter-than-usual Spring Training, but Price doesn’t see it as a big concern.
“As much as I might want more time to watch these guys perform, every one is champing at the bit to get the season started,” he said. “. Players are really getting geared to Opening Day.
If it went much longer we’d lose some of the energy here currently. We’re familiar with our players and there’s a lot of factors going in to making the decision. It won’t be solely spring training performance. We have to respect what they’ve accomplished in the past and marry that with how they look during spring training.”