Finnegan hangs tough in start against Royals

Reds left-hander strikes out four as he pushes for rotation spot

Finnegan hangs tough in start against Royals

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- After a nub shot down the third-base line trickled foul in the first inning on Tuesday, Reds starter Brandon Finnegan had something to say to the Royals' Eric Hosmer as he jogged back to the batter's box.

Hosmer, two innings later, had something to say right back: "You OK?"

Hosmer was concerned briefly after he lined a ball back at Finnegan that left the pitcher shaking his right hand in the Reds' 4-2 win at Goodyear Ballpark.

Finnegan sacrifices glove

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"It hit nothing but palm. He hit it so hard I couldn't react to it," said Finnegan, who gave up two runs in 4 1/3 innings against his former team as he continued to build a case for a rotation spot. "He got a good piece of it, but luckily I got him out,"

Finnegan was selected by the Royals in the first round of the 2014 Draft and pitched for them in the World Series that season. He was acquired by the Reds as part of last year's non-waiver Trade Deadline deal that sent Johnny Cueto to Kansas City.

Even in his short time with the Royals, Finnegan built some strong relationships. The kind that lead to some friendly trash talk -- like the texts Finnegan and Hosmer exchanged on Monday.

"I was running my mouth to him and he was running it back to me," Finnegan said. "He's one of my good buddies over there. I got a lot of friends over there."

Leading up to Tuesday's Cactus League game, Finnegan didn't think his former team would bring many of its starters to a road game across town. But the Royals sent six projected Opening Day starters to step in against the hard-throwing Finnegan.

The left-hander handled the defending World Series champions well. Finnegan struck out four and the second run scored after he left the game in the fifth.

"A thousand times better than last week," Finnegan said of his previous start, when he gave up a pair of runs on five hits in 2 2/3 innings. "Everything was working."

It was a good impression as the day draws closer when manager Bryan Price will have to set his young rotation.

"I thought he was terrific," Price said. "The biggest part of his game for me, other than deflecting the periodic line drive, was the fact that he threw his changeup. … It really needs to be an impact pitch for him."

Price's praise was a follow-up of similar comments he made earlier in the day.

"Finnegan looks good," Price said. "I anticipate him having a very strong chance to make our club and be in our starting rotation.

"These next two weeks are hugely important for these guys who want to make the club, because it is now a performance Spring Training for most of these guys. As opposed to a getting-ready-for-the-season Spring Training many veterans are afforded. So I'm really hoping to see, looking forward to seeing, better performance, especially from the pitching staff."

Chris Gabel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.