Notes: Finnegan's comeback; Winker's hip

March 2nd, 2021

Back in 2018 and ’19, left-hander pitched himself off of the Reds’ 40-man roster. In ’21, Finnegan will be trying to get himself back on it.

Part of Cincinnati’s early Minor League camp, Finnegan was summoned for a big league Spring Training start on Monday vs. the A’s. He worked two perfect innings with one strikeout during a 13-5 Reds loss.

“Getting off the game mound and being able to compete again felt really great,” Finnegan said from Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz. “I was really happy with the movement on everything. Not a ton of swing-and-misses, but at the end of the day, I got a lot of weak contact.”

Finnegan, who will turn 28 on April 14, has made nine Major League starts in the regular season since 2016 because of myriad arm injuries -- and no starts since ’18, when he was 0-3 with a 7.40 ERA in five starts after he opened that season with a left biceps strain.

At Triple-A Louisville, it only got worse for Finnegan, as he went 2-10 with a 7.05 ERA in 28 games (nine starts) while allowing 90 hits and 40 walks over 67 2/3 innings. During Spring Training 2019, he cleared waivers and was sent outright to the Minors.

Instead of assigning him to a team, the organization sent Finnegan to the Seattle area to work at Driveline, Kyle Boddy’s data-driven baseball performance center, where he reworked his mechanics and tried to find velocity that had been missing.

“I’ve just been working. It did suck pretty much missing three-quarters of the year in ’19 to go to Driveline. I can’t state how it helped me. I came back, my velo was back up,” Finnegan said.

At Double-A Chattanooga to finish 2019, Finnegan had a 6.60 ERA in 13 relief appearances but felt good about his stuff. With no Minor League season last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was eventually added to the group at Cincinnati’s alternate training site and kept working with Eric Jagers, who is now the club’s assistant pitching coach. He also returned to Driveline in the offseason to keep working on pitches and added a curveball to his fastball, changeup and slider repertoire.

“I’ve tried to keep my blinders on and keep moving forward realizing that the only thing I can control is how hard I work and what I do on the mound is to go out there and just attack,” said Finnegan, who was throwing 93-94 mph on Monday.

Reds manager David Bell believed that Finnegan -- the final player left among three pitchers acquired from the Royals in the 2015 trade of ace Johnny Cueto -- could still help the organization.

“He has a lot of pitching ahead of him,” Bell said before Monday’s game. “He’s still young, and he can pitch for a long, long time. To his credit, he’s really been open-minded and learned new things. There’s a chance he can be better than he’s ever been, so we have to see it in a game setting. I know I’m looking forward to seeing where he is.”

Winker out as precaution
Reds left fielder was scratched from the lineup Monday because of a sore right hip and replaced by . Bell said the decision to rest Winker was precautionary.

“He’s come into Spring Training and really ramped up fast. Not his fault or anything like that. I think that’s a good sign that he was feeling so strong and really excited to be here and was getting a lot of work in, maybe more than anyone else. Sometimes you do have to be a little bit careful. We’d rather him attack his work like he has, and it’s only going to cost him a couple of days.”

Naquin competing for a spot
One of the more recent additions, non-roster outfielder , made his Reds debut as the designated hitter vs. Oakland on Monday. Naquin, who was 0-for-3, signed a Minor League deal on Feb. 18 after he spent the past five seasons with Cleveland.

As a rookie in 2016, Naquin posted a .296/.372/.514 slash line with 14 home runs in 116 games but hasn’t approached that production since because of injuries to his left hamstring, right hip, left calf and a torn ACL in his right knee. In ’20, he spent time on the injured list with a hairline fracture of his big right toe and batted .218 with four homers in 40 games.

Despite a crowded outfield picture, Bell looked forward to seeing the 29-year-old Naquin battle for a spot. He has a 281-game errorless streak that dates back to 2016, a Cleveland club record for an outfielder.

“We’ve had great reports; we’ve all seen him play,” Bell said. “He’s had a few injuries that have set him back, but we know when he’s healthy, he’s a really talented good player. Good outfielder, good athlete, can run well. Swings a bat.”

Rolling along
A common sight in games on back fields will be part of Spring Training games in the stadiums this year under new rules. Teams are allowed to “roll an inning” -- or stop it before the third out if a pitcher reaches his pitch limit after a minimum of 20 pitches. Bell had to do it for the first time Monday, stopping an inning twice, and nearly did it on Sunday.

“It was a little weird [Sunday]. I think everyone was hesitant to roll an inning, which is probably good,” Bell said. “It can be a tool if we need it, not just soon as we get to 20 pitches, we’re rolling it. I think it’s nice to know. The big benefit is not having to get anyone up in the bullpen. That’s huge.”