Over seven seasons in the Oakland A’s organization, Kyle Finnegan, put up solid numbers, including a combined 2.31 ERA between Double and Triple-A in the Athletics’ system over 42 games and 50 2⁄3 IP last season, but the right-hander, selected in the 6th Round of the 2013 Draft, never got the call to the majors.
Signed to a major league deal by the Nationals this past winter, the right-hander made the 30-Man Opening Day roster last week, setting himself up for a debut in the odd, 60-game, empty ballpark 2020 season.
“It’s incredible,” Finnegan said when he spoke to reporters on a Zoom call in advance of the second game of the year last night.
“In such a crazy year,” the 28-year-old reliever explained, “I think it opened the door to some crazy things happening.
“I happened to benefit from that with the expanded rosters and everything. And just to hear that I made the team from [manager] Davey [Martinez], it meant a lot to me on my journey and I’m so happy to be here and I can’t wait to get this thing started.”
Finnegan said he didn’t have any regrets about his time in the A’s organization, though he did not ever get to pitch for them in the majors.
“Every player wants to get that opportunity, especially with the team you were drafted by,” Finnegan said.
“From the day you’re drafted you want to make it to the big leagues with that team, and do it as quick as possible.
“Unfortunately I didn’t get that opportunity, but I think that journey obviously led me to this position. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I think that all that adversity just helped me along the way. I met so many great people in the Oakland A’s organization, I have no hard feelings whatsoever, it’s part of the game.
“I’m not the first guy that’s ever happened to, won’t be the last, just part of the game.
What did the Nationals see from Finnegan in Spring Training 1.0 and 2.0 that led them to keep the right-hander in the big league bullpen?
“He’s a hard thrower,” Martinez said in explaining the decision. “Mixes in — he’s got a good cutter, good slider, good changeup. So we thought he could be in the mix here for us too.”
Finnegan’s been working with Nats’ pitching coach Paul Menhart, trying to refine a splitter so it’s a more effective weapon.
“I’ve been working a lot on my splitter,” he said. “I’ve always thrown a splitter, and it’s been one of my go-to offspeed pitches, and we were just working on getting it a little more down in the zone. It was kind of floating on me a little bit in my previous outings. So we really went to work on starting it in a better spot, and allowing it to start as a strike, fall out of the zone, trying to get some swings and misses, and I think we’re making some great strides with it, and I feel 100% confident in throwing it.”
What will the emotions be like when he finally gets into a big league game? Finnegan said he’s really not sure given the fact that things are a lot different this time around.
“Normally I’d probably — adrenaline would be flying all over the place. But it’s definitely a little more calm of an environment without all the fans, so you know, I can’t really answer that for you. I can guarantee you I’m going to be very excited.
“I’m excited to get out there and throw, but as far as the atmosphere, I’ve played in games without fans before, but I can guarantee that I’m going to be ready to go and I’m very excited about that first outing.”
Finnegan got the opportunity last night. Called upon in the ninth, with the Nationals up 9-2, the right-hander worked around a one-out error (he committed on a high throw to first), and a single to center, getting Aaron Judge to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP to wrap up a 13-pitch, nine-strike frame.
“We’re definitely going to work with Finnegan on his PFPs,” Martinez said after the game, “... but he came in and threw strikes, that was really nice to see.”