Brandon Finnegan, the left-handed pitcher who served as the centerpiece for the Reds in their trade of Johnny Cueto to the Royals, had some harsh words for his former team in an interview with Jonathan Lintner of the Louisville Courier-Journal. “The Royals kind of screwed me over this year,” said Finnegan of his time bouncing back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen. “I wouldn’t have done what I did if it wasn’t for them last year. But you could tell they just didn’t have a clue what to do with me.” (In a series of tweets from his Twitter account, Finnegan said he did not intend his words to express displeasure with his prior employer.) A starter in his college days at TCU, Finnegan was fast-tracked to the Majors to serve as a bullpen weapon in last year’s playoff push for the Royals. However, he believes himself to be a starter long-term and clearly feels that lack of a defined role with the Royals has contributed to his struggles since converting back to a starter with Cincinnati: “I like starting. … Getting back into it has been tough, but I’ve got a great team to do it with. These guys have been very welcoming.” Manager Bryan Price spoke highly of Finnegan’s stuff, though interestingly, his Triple-A manager, Delino DeShields, told Lintner that he believes Finnegan’s best role is in the bullpen.
Here’s more from the NL Central…
- Fangraphs’ Neil Weinberg examines the second-half collapse of Todd Frazier. As Weinberg notes, it’s a fairly common narrative that the Home Run Derby has impacted Frazier’s performance, but there’s historically little evidence to prove that the Derby can have that type of lasting impact. Looking for the reason behind the slump, Weinberg notes a drastic increase in inner-third pitches thrown to Frazier as well as a large increase in fastballs. Pitchers have begun to bust Frazier in on the inner third far more often, and Frazier is making less contact in general and hitting the ball into the ground much more frequently when he does connect. Weinberg concludes by noting that while breakouts make for fun stories, they’re often notable because they’re difficult to sustain. “…Frazier is a good reminder that judging a player by their best or worst stretches is a good way to misjudge a player,” writes Weinberg.
- Shortstop Zach Cozart says that his rehab from season-ending knee surgery has gone well, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports. He is only now nearing the point where he’ll begin running and performing agility exercises, but that still represents a big gain after having torn both the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments of his right knee. Cozart says he “anticipate[s] being stronger than ever at Spring Training.” Certainly, Cincinnati will hope that he can pick up where he left off: a .258/.310/.459 slash with nine home runs in 214 plate appearances.
- Of course, fellow shortstop Eugenio Suarez — acquired in last winter’s Alfredo Simon deal — has performed admirably since taking over for Cozart, slashing a robust .291/.328/.476 with 11 long balls and four stolen bases over 296 turns at the plate. Suarez won’t even reach arbitration eligibility until 2018, while Cozart has two more years of arb control. As noted in today’s Mailbag, it’s certainly possible to imagine the Reds aiming to open the year with that pair playing up the middle in the infield, possibly by looking to deal veteran Brandon Phillips.