MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

TCU's Finnegan impresses in return to mound

TCU's Finnegan impresses in return to mound

In a week in which right-handers Jeff Hoffman (East Carolina) and Erick Fedde (Nevada-Las Vegas) -- two of the Draft's top pitching prospects -- succumbed to Tommy John surgery, there was some good news on the injury front. Texas Christian's Brandon Finnegan, one of the best lefties available, successfully returned to the mound on Friday.

After establishing himself as a possible top-10 pick, Finnegan left his April 25 start against Cal State Northridge after three innings with shoulder tightness. TCU team physician Dr. John Conway diagnosed nothing more than some minor inflammation, so Finnegan could have pitched the next weekend against Kansas State. The Horned Frogs decided to save him after winning the first two games of that series, waiting to bring him back against Oklahoma on Friday.

Working on an 80-pitch limit, Finnegan went four innings and earned the decision in a 10-2 victory. He wasn't at his sharpest, allowing two runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out four, but an area scout who attended the game said Finnegan showed everything he needed to.

"His velocity was a couple of ticks down, but that didn't concern me," the scout said. "The stuff was similar to what it's always been. 'Rusty' might be the best way to describe it. I have no doubt he's fine. I came out of there feeling pretty good about it."

Finnegan has spent most of the spring pitching at 93-95 mph with his fastball, and he has reached 97. He misses bats with both his heater and his solid low-80s slider, and he currently ranks fourth in NCAA Division I with an average of 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings (100 whiffs in 76 frames).

Finnegan also has a decent changeup as a third pitch, and he has improved his control and command this spring. Because he stands just 5-foot-11, 185 pounds and features some effort in his delivery, some scouts believe he'll wind up as a late-inning reliever in the Major Leagues. Others see Finnegan along the lines of former All-Star lefty Mike Hampton and believe he can make it as a starter.