India, Finnegan's OD roster hopes revved up

March 13th, 2021

Most of the time during the latter half of Spring Training, players are getting sent to the Minor League camp. Rarely is it the other way around.

There were 11 cuts from Reds camp Friday, but infield prospect Jonathan India and lefty pitcher Brandon Finnegan were added to the big league spring roster among the transactions. Both are getting increased consideration for making the team on Opening Day.

“Those were fun conversations,” Reds manager David Bell said. “You don’t get to have those very often this time of year. It’s really just a reflection of what each guy has done. Definitely different situations, but I guess it’s officially acknowledging that they belong here in the Major League camp and they’re officially competing for a spot on the Major League team -- which both have been even before this move, which has been great to see.”

Both players responded well in Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Mariners that was called after eight innings because of rain. India was 2-for-3 with an RBI double and a run scored. Finnegan looked strong again on the mound while pitching two scoreless innings.

Finnegan was thrilled when he received the news.

“Honestly, I was shocked. Getting called in usually this early is not a good sign,” Finnegan said. “But I was so happy. I’ve been through a lot in the last few years, and it sucked. But one thing is I kept trying to work and work and get back to where I know I belong, and that’s on the big league field, pitching for a big league team.”

Finnegan, 27, pitched his way off of the Reds’ 40-man roster after struggling in 2018 and during camp in ’19. He spent much of the ’19 season reworking his mechanics and trying to reclaim lost velocity at Driveline Baseball before finishing the year at Double-A Chattanooga. With no Minor League season last year, he was able to do some pitching at the club's alternate training site.

This spring, Finnegan has pitched well and demonstrated that his velocity is consistently back in the 93-94 mph range.

“I feel like myself again,” Finnegan said. “I think people forget that at one point, I was the number two starter on this team for four-plus years.”

The former starter will continue to compete for a spot in the bullpen.

“It’s been quite a road for Finny, certainly not easy,” Bell said. “It was fun to be able to communicate to him just how impressive it is that he’s been able to stay with it and keep finding ways to get better. I’m sure many times along the way -- we all face this -- he could have given up or gone the other way and he did the exact opposite and put himself back into a situation where he’s really on the brink of being back in the big leagues. Obviously, no guarantees. It’s not over.”

India, 24, was ranked by MLB Pipeline as Cincinnati’s No. 5 prospect in 2020. He impressed the organization during his time at the alternate site and even more so during Spring Training this month.

“It just says so much about the difference a year makes in a young player’s career,” Bell said. “Not that he wasn’t in a good place last year, but the development has been very significant over the last year -- to the point of he has a shot to make the team.”

Through 10 games this spring, India is batting .353/.522/.647 with one homer and two doubles.

“Honestly, it was great news for me,” India said. “I’m blessed to be in that position. I just took it like another day. You can’t get ahead of yourself with stuff like this, but I’m very grateful to be in this position, and I just have to keep doing what I’m doing, keep working hard and everything is fine.”

With first baseman Joey Votto on the injured list because of COVID-19, second baseman Mike Moustakas could be shifted to his position. That would potentially open up second base for India -- who can also play third base.

“I think when he gets to the big leagues, there’s going to be a commitment to playing him,” Bell said. "That will be the timing part of it that has to make sense for him.”

When asked, Bell said that he had no plans to give India any significant time this spring at shortstop, where there is a vacancy and he has limited experience.

Among those who were optioned to Triple-A Louisville were right-handed pitchers Edgar García, Vladimir Gutiérrez, Ryan Hendrix, Riley O’Brien, Tony Santillan and Jared Solomon. Outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. and right-handed pitchers R.J. Alaniz, Matt Ball, Shane Carle and Bo Takahashi were re-assigned to the Minor League camp.

The moves leave Cincinnati with 47 players in camp.

Reds acquire Freeman

The Reds have acquired more infield depth with Mike Freeman coming over from Cleveland in a trade for cash Friday. He will be a non-roster player in camp.

Freeman, 33, was batting .333 (5-for-15) with one home run in six Cactus League games this spring.

A five-year veteran who has also played for the D-backs, Mariners, Dodgers and Cubs, Freeman is a career .232/.315/.330 hitter over 156 games. He mostly plays second and third base, but he also has some limited big league experience at shortstop, first base and left field.

“My versatility, I think, has become valuable to managers,” Freeman said. “The ability to play shortstop, move around the diamond depending on what’s needed. Having played multiple positions in the outfield, infield, I know my past experience in the National League, how that can become valuable to a manager late in games as far as double switches and that sort of thing. It’s just an opportunity to prove myself at the Major League level.”

Miley optimistic after injury scare

After he left his Thursday outing vs. the White Sox in the fourth inning with a left hamstring injury, left-handed pitcher Wade Miley felt better Friday.

“I felt a little sting in the back of my hamstring, back above my knee on three consecutive pitches; nothing super painful, I just felt something,” Miley said. “I woke up this morning feeling great. My strength is a touch weak, but for the most part, it's really close. I don't think this is going to be a setback at all.”

Schrock has MRI

Infielder and bench candidate Max Schrock, who left Wednesday’s game vs. the Royals with a right calf injury, underwent an MRI exam that revealed no serious issues. Bell believed that Schrock could return in 7-10 days.

“That would be outstanding. That would give him time to be ready by the time we break camp,” Bell said.