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Finnegan seeking defined starter role with Reds

Young lefty reliever is confident at camp: 'I know I can start'
MLB.com @m_sheldon

GOODYEAR, Ariz. - As the Royals marched through the postseason and to a World Series title by beating the Mets last fall, reliever Brandon Finnegan was at home in Texas watching the games on TV with friends. Finnegan certainly had rooting interest, since he played for Kansas City just a few months earlier.

On July 26, Finnegan was traded to the Reds with Cody Reed and John Lamb for ace Johnny Cueto. Finnegan, who debuted as a reliever for the Royals the same year he was drafted out of TCU in 2014, was on the losing end of that year's World Series vs. the Giants.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. - As the Royals marched through the postseason and to a World Series title by beating the Mets last fall, reliever Brandon Finnegan was at home in Texas watching the games on TV with friends. Finnegan certainly had rooting interest, since he played for Kansas City just a few months earlier.

On July 26, Finnegan was traded to the Reds with Cody Reed and John Lamb for ace Johnny Cueto. Finnegan, who debuted as a reliever for the Royals the same year he was drafted out of TCU in 2014, was on the losing end of that year's World Series vs. the Giants.

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"Definitely, it was real bittersweet, especially knowing that if I hadn't been traded, I would have been pitching. But I'm happy for them," Finnegan said. "I love those guys. They were great teammates. I still talk to them all the time. It was something they worked towards and it was well overdue. They deserved it."

Finnegan, who turns 23 on April 14, finds himself part of a rebuilding program that focuses heavily on young pitching. The left-hander has a chance to make the Reds' rotation in a competition for three open spots. Michael Lorenzen, Jon Moscot, Robert Stephenson and Reed are among the other contenders.

"I think we have a chance to have good years, though," Finnegan said. "People are doubting us, but we have some really good pitchers and fielders. I think we might shock some people."

Starting is what Finnegan did in college, and what he would like to do in the Majors. Because of his rapid success as a reliever in the '14 season -- over seven regular season and seven postseason appearances -- Kansas City did not define a role for him.

"Nothing against Kansas City, but I was back and forth," Finnegan said. "I never had a real start for Kansas City in the Minors. They always had me on a pitch limit, because they knew I would be coming up a few days later. They were in a tough spot, and they needed somebody in the 'pen."

Video: STL@CIN: Finnegan K's Carpenter to lead off the 7th

A September callup last season to the Reds, Finnegan was 2-2 with a 4.18 ERA in six games. That included four starts with a 4.71 ERA, 21 hits, seven walks and 20 strikeouts over 21 innings. He won his first start -- on Sept. 18 vs. the Brewers -- with one run and three hits over five innings. But in the next outing, the Cardinals roughed him up with six runs, including three homers, over five innings.

Reds manager Bryan Price liked what he saw from Finnegan -- enough to give him a chance at the 2016 rotation.

"Had I not seen him pitch in September … he probably would be a tweener, a guy the scouts saw as a starter in college, but pro scouts saw as a reliever in pro ball," Price said. "We'd have to define his best role based on our own speculation. I think he answered the bell a little bit by having a strong September, showing that third pitch. The changeup, for me, was a difference-maker. Had he come in with a reliever mentality, fastball-slider, it would have been harder for me to envision him as a starting pitcher long term."

A bullpen role could always be a fallback situation for Finnegan, but he felt that he prepared himself to be in a good position to earn a starting spot.

"Last year, I definitely had no clue, coming into Spring Training, what I was going to do," Finnegan said. "I only had five bullpens coming into spring with Kansas City. Then I tweaked my hamstring, so it set me back even more, so my arm was nowhere near in shape. This offseason, I hit it hard. I started throwing Dec. 1. By the time I got to Spring Training, I had nine or 10 bullpens. My arm is definitely ready to go and my body is in good shape.

"I know I can start. I think I proved that a little bit last year. I'm just going to go out and give it my all."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Brandon Finnegan