The Broo View: Finnegan, bench play among the early bright spots for Reds

CINCINNATI -- In the first three days of this season, I think we've seen what we're going to see a lot from the Reds this summer. And I think that's good.

We've seen their best pitcher toss the best game of the season so far. Scott Feldman started Opening Day, but Brandon Finnegan, for the moment and until Anthony DeSclafani returns, is the Reds' best starter. And in the second of three games against the Phillies, Finnegan was terrific.

It's not so much that Finnegan allowed just one hit in seven innings. That, in and of itself, was impressive. It's not so much that his fastball topped out at 96 mph. That was also impressive. But Finnegan did all of that throwing just 88 pitches.

In the past, he was consumed by inefficiency. Because of that, there were some inside the Reds organization who believed he was better suited for the bullpen, not starting.

But Finnegan told me at Redsfest last December that both Dick Williams and Bryan Price told him he needed to prepare to be a starting pitcher this winter.

One strong outing does not a season make, but it's vital for Finnegan to give the Reds a steady dose of quality innings. Soon to be 24 (April 14), Finnegan is one of the few veterans in the organization who has Major League starting experience.

We've also seen why this year will be a huge challenge for the Reds when it comes to winning ball games. On Opening Day, Feldman wasn't impressive. And situationally, the Reds didn't hit all that well. In Wednesday's game, rookie Rookie Davis (he's now made one start, should he not be called Veteran Davis?) lasted all of three innings. With Davis and Amir Garrett currently on the roster, we'll see more of that.

On the bright side, we've seen the Reds bench deliver.

On Monday it was Scooter Gennett who came into the game late and drilled a two-run home run in the ninth inning to get the Reds within one, the margin by which they lost.

On Thursday, pitcher Mike Lorenzen -- who was a very decent college hitter while at Cal State Fullerton -- came off the bench for a pinch-hit home run that broke a 4-4 tie. It was also a game where the Reds strung together three hits, a walk and a couple of outs to turn a 4-1 deficit into a 4-4 ballgame. Manufacturing runs, as they call it, will be critical to how many games the Reds can win this season.

By the way, according to ESPN's Jayson Stark, the last pinch-hit home run by a Red at Great American Ball Park was Sept. 6, 2014 by Chris Heisey.

ESPN Stats points out that the Reds were the only National League team with no pinch-hit home runs last season.  A pitcher broke that streak on Wednesday.

We should remember, all of this was against the Phillies, a team rebuilding like the Reds. The challenges will come later in matchups against the Cubs, Dodgers, Mets and the other top-level teams in the National League. But they've begun this season 2-1, and for starters, not bad.

Random thoughts on a random Friday...

Michael Lombardi got caught up in the wash of a bad deal in Cleveland. But he knows football and knows what it takes to win. This is a good blue-print for any team that's in need of a quarterback this draft...

With Tony Romo out of the free agent quarterback mix (although why do I believe that he'll play somewhere this season?) A.J. McCarron's trade value increases. The Bengals will have to make a decision on McCarron before next season. 

The advantage now is with the Bengals. The Browns and Texans both need quarterbacks. I'd make a case for the Bears still needing one (Mike Glennon? Really?). But that playing field is only a snap shot. Next year's draft brings a whole new batch of quarterbacks.

The Bengals have to decide when it's best to trade McCarron or not trade him at all. Think about this possible scenario:  if the Bengals go into the dumpster again in 2017, do they stay the course with Andy Dalton? Or do they decide he's too expensive for the return and make the move to McCarron? I talked with an NFL insider Thursday who said to not discount that scenario IF the Bengals have another subpar year.

But there's a caution flag waving on that one. The most popular player on any roster is the backup quarterback. McCarron would have to get serious playing time in 2017, and excel, for the Bengals to consider traveling down that road. But it's not inconceivable...

As for the draft, now three weeks away, I wouldn't mind the Bengals taking this guy with the ninth overall pick...

Dustin Johnson is out of the Masters Tournament with a bad back. Apparently, he went down a flight of stairs in the wrong direction...

A tradition unlike any other...

No way around it, Jordan Spieth's meltdown at Augusta last year affected his entire 2016 season. He's not off to a rousing start at The Masters this year either...

Don Rickles died Thursday. He was the master of insults. As a matter of fact, if you were a celebrity and you weren't insulted by Rickles, then you weren't much of a celebrity. But Rickles was also a very good actor. He had guest appearances in a lot of '50s and '60s TV dramas. And his "Crapgame" character portrayal in the 1970 movie "Kelly's Heroes" was a strong effort. 

And this moment from an impromptu appearance on The Tonight Show back in 1976 was a classic:

Don Rickles was 90. He died Thursday in Los Angeles.

On a happier note, belated but Happy Birthday wishes to the voice of The Hollies, Alan Clarke, who turned 75 on Wednesday...

This song is off the Hollies "Distant Light" album, was co-written by Clarke, Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook.

Cook and Greenway were very successful songwriters. Among their mega hits was "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing." Clarke says this song was written in about five minutes. Funny how so many songs were written so quickly. But when you have a hit, you have a hit.

Clarke's vocals carry this song, but drummer Bobby Elliott is just superb.

Clarke was a founding member of the Hollies, along with his friend Graham Nash. The Holies had more than 15 top-10 hits. Along with the rest of the original Hollies, including Nash, Clarke was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the winter of 2010.

And 75 years ago Wednesday in Salford, Lancashire, England, Harold Allan Clarke came upon this earth. Children of '60s music should celebrate along with him.

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