SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) Brandon Finnegan would have to do quite a lot to top what he accomplished in 2014.
He helped pitch TCU into the College World Series in June, the same month the Kansas City Royals drafted him in the first round.
He began his pro career in Class A, was promoted to the majors in September and then got a couple of big outs for the Royals in the World Series.
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”It was a crazy, wild ride. I had a blast,” Finnegan said. ”It’s pretty cool. It’s hard to deal with, so I just take it as something normal. I know it’s not. It’s just how I have to take it to keep my head on straight.”
Finnegan had a 1.29 ERA in seven relief appearances for Kansas City in the regular season. He pitched seven times in the postseason and earned his first professional victory with a hitless inning against the Los Angeles in the AL Division Series.
The 21-year-old lefty was a starter in college and his fastball has touched 98 mph. He also has good slider and a solid changeup.
Finnegan will be stretched out in spring training to be a starter, but there appears to be no rotation vacancy on the big league club. He could open the season in the bullpen.
If Finnegan has his pick, it would be relieving in Kansas City.
”Definitely, be up with the big league club,” Finnegan said. ”I think anybody would say that. The minor leagues isn’t fun for a reason. Everybody wants to get up there. Whatever they have me to do is what I’m going to do.”
The Royals did not select Finnegan 17th overall in the draft to be a left-handed relief specialist, but project him as a front-line starter. Yet, after going to Game 7 of the World Series before losing to San Francisco, the Royals are in a win-now mode and Finnegan is one of the best 12 arms in camp.
Finnegan’s fate could be linked to left-hander Tim Collins, who led big league relievers with 93 strikeouts in 2012, but regressed the past two seasons.
The 25-year-old Collins strained his left forearm last April, was ineffective in May and demoted June 24 to Triple-A Omaha before returning Sept. 19. In four late-season appearances, he struck out five and walked one in 3 2-3 innings, while allowing just one hit and one run.
”I think what Tim Collins did at the end of the year was a pretty big step forward for me,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. ”He got back to throwing strikes and commanding the ball. He was pretty effective.”
If Collins or another left-hander emerges with a superior spring training, it allows the club to develop Finnegan as a starter in the minors.
Yost said he does not have to carry a left-hander in the bullpen, ”but would like to.”
”From the seventh inning, it’s not going to matter,” Yost said. ”You’re not matching up anything unless you get past the ninth inning and you’ve used your three big guys then you get back to mixing and matching. Up to that point, no. It’s always nice to have a lefty.”
With dominating right-handers Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera throwing the final three innings when the Royals lead, they face right-handed and left-handed hitters.
The verdict on whether Finnegan begins the season in the Triple-A Omaha rotation or in the Kansas City bullpen will be determined in spring training.
”I can do either one,” said Finnegan, who turns 22 in April. ”It’s fun to go further obviously in the game. You always like to finish what you start. Obviously, relieving is easier on the arm. It’s just come in and just shove for an inning. Obviously, whichever one they have me do, I’m going to be pumped for it.”