TEXAS LEAGUE: Finnegan blossoming as RockHounds’ closer

MIDLAND As the league leader in saves, Kyle Finnegan was practically a shoe-in for selection to the Texas League All-Star Game.

The Midland RockHounds closer’s nine saves is three more than his nearest competitors — Northwest Arkansas’ Franco Terrero and Arkansas’ Art Warren — and his 1.59 ERA and 36 strikeouts over 22.1 innings pitched in 21 outings only strengthened his resume.

For Finnegan, who has converted nine of 11 save opportunities, the all-star selection is merely a product of taking care of the little details.

“I don’t really put too much thought into that during the season,” Finnegan said. “I just kind of take it day by day and play the best I can every day. With all the hard work we put in, to be recognized for what we do is nice.”

Finnegan, who was a sixth-round draft pick out of Texas State in 2013, spent his first three pro seasons as a starter, going 20-23 with a 4.53 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 309.2 innings. He made four relief appearances in 2016, then moved to the bullpen full time the following season.

Since making the transition, Finnegan converted 42 of 49 save opportunities, including 37 of 43 with Midland over parts of four seasons.

RockHounds manager Scott Steinmann said Finnegan’s 2019 numbers could have been even better had it not been for a 10-day stint on the injured list in May and a brief promotion to Triple-A earlier this month.

“Being the league leader and missing two and a half weeks, you can tell (he deserves to be an All-Star),” Steinmann said. “During that time, we had a little bit of a skid and some of those were blown leads in the bullpen. I think if he was back there, we may have a chance of running away with this thing. One more win (in the first half) would have been special for us.”

Finnegan said better command of his fastball has been a key factor in this season’s success.

“I think I’ve been able to get a little more swing and miss this year with my fastball,” he said. “I’ve been able to get back into counts, maybe 2-1 get a swing and miss to get the count back even, and just putting guys away.

“I’ve been able to limit damage. I haven’t had much of that (allowing five runs total). Things are kind of on a roll and I just try to execute one pitch at a time.”

While Finnegan has enjoyed individual success this season, he said the relationships built with teammates will be a lasting memory for him.

“You’re always going to miss the bus rides,” he said. “Being trapped on a bus with 25 other guys, it can be fun, it can be tough, but they’re memorable, for sure.”