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Terrerobytes: When fast-tracking college pitchers fails

Brandon Finnegan fell off the Chris Sale course, plus more upheaval possible in Detroit, Alexei Ramirez can go back to Cuba, and more

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In another case from the "Don't Take Chris Sale For Granted Files," consider Brandon Finnegan.

The Royals drafted Finnegan with the 17th overall pick in the 2014 draft, then brought him up that September to add a lefty to the bullpen. At least until the last two legs of Kansas City's postseason run, the gamble paid off:

  • Regular season: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 HR, 1 BB, 10 K
  • WC and ALDS: 4 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 HR, 1 BB, 3 K
  • ALCS and WS: 2 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 2 BB, 1 K

Yet considering he'd pitched for TCU in the College World Series before appearing in the big-boy World Series, it was hard to call the flat finish a failure. It worked better than it should have, probably, and with another deep bullpen on paper, the Royals had time to begin his development as a starter in earnest.

Just four months later, he was traded to the Reds after a frustrating (for him) season that had him bouncing between roles and levels, and he voiced some of this displeasure to the Cincinnati media:

"The Royals kind of screwed me over this year," Finnegan said. "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."

Finnegan tried to walk some of it back on Twitter -- to his credit, he said he wasn't misquoted -- but Max Rieper at Royals Review says that "he's not really wrong." There's also some speculation that he hurt himself by showing up to spring training out of shape, and while there's some debate over weight gain, this basically highlights all the way a major-league crash course can go awry, whether due to the organization's indecisiveness, the player's immaturity, or a combination.

Not that Sale's transition went off without a hitch. The Sox did exercise more patience by letting the Condor spend the entire 2011 season in the bullpen, but one MLB month into Sale's career as a starter, the Sox caused consternation of their own by moving him to the bullpen in response to the first bout of above-average soreness. Sale's response was borderline inappropriate, as Kenny Williams tells it:

"He wasn't happy with me at all,'' Williams said. "He said some things that I allowed for awhile, and then I had to remind him that not only was I the GM, but I'm in shape, and I can fight.

"When I got off the phone, my fiancée at the time and now wife, said, 'You let your players yell and scream like that?'

"Well, I was pumped about it. It was the first sign that he had that No. 1, shutdown, mentality.

"I loved it, because there was no back down in him.''

Yet as awkward as that whole episode was, it could have been so much worse. Sale exploded at Williams, but that's better than railing through the media. And while the brain trust didn't cover themselves in glory, they let the smoke clear and corrected themselves before they stunted a career of the best strikeout pitcher in franchise history.

Another peril of fast-tracking starters? Developing a routine on the fly for a pitcher who isn't accustomed to working every five days. Carlos Rodon and Don Cooper have figured one out:

They’ve since developed a three-part bullpen session that includes something akin to long toss — "just trying to feel that ride to the plate," Rodon said — to several throw-hops off the mound before he begins to work out of the stretch. The practice has solidified along the way, both said, and Rodon likes the results.

"I had to figure (the routine) out first," Rodon said. "Finally came up with one and feel more comfortable. It’s come together good.

"I’m more consistent in the strike zone, earlier contact and pitch count is down — all these things that really help and help the team."



A reporter for a Detroit television station is saying that new Tigers GM Al Avila is set on picking a new manager at the end of the season, even though Brad Ausmus has one year left on his deal. Should Ausmus get the ax, he may not have to wait long for a job for some reason:

Ausmus can't be blamed for the sudden shortage of pitchers in Detroit (it's kinda why Dave Dombrowski isn't there anymore), and the forecast doesn't look promising, unless:

All of this is now in Avila's hands. A new general manager is adamant that, with his owner's go-ahead, the Tigers will add two solid starters during the offseason. The team will hunt for a reliable closer, a safari perhaps more daunting than adding two to the rotation.

That is bound to take a Tigers payroll already at $170-plus million to a neighborhood that could reach $190 million.

Going back to the Phillies, they finally fired Ruben Amaro Jr., with assistant GM Scott Proefrock taking over immediately. Add this to the list of openings, and perhaps a surprisingly desirable one thanks to Amaro's late work:

Regardless of how fast relations between the United States and Cuba warm, Alexei Ramirez can return to his homeland after the season. Cuban law prevents any citizen who's left the country from returning for the next eight years, and that statute of limitations has expired.

I see no problem with the speed with which Robin Ventura has exposed Trayce Thompson to right-handed pitching, as long as the starts don't suddenly dry up.

Since discontinued chats, Keith Law equipped his personal blog to handle them, which is a plus-plus move. You still may not like what he has to say there:

Nick: What is a reasonable expectation for Trayce Thompson? Is there a chance he breaks out?

Klaw: Given his plate discipline in the minors and very long swing, I think these 50 major league at bats are giving people false hope. He’s a 70 defender in center with probably 20-25 homer power but I don’t think he’ll hit enough to get to that power upside.

NBC's Sunday Night Football broadcasts are really well done, and Cris Collinsworth is a big reason why. Even if you're not a football fan -- I'm not much of one these days -- it's still worth reading, as 1) Bryan Curtis is a great reporter, and 2) he fleshes out how Collinsworth avoids meathead analysis without talking over his audience's heads.