A day after playing 20 hard-fought innings in Brooklyn to begin the season, the SI Yanks came home looking to match the intensity from their previous day’s marathon. More specifically, they looked to follow up a victory on day one with another on their first day at home.
With Finley toeing the rubber for the Yanks, he put on a show, with some help from great defense. Pouring in six no-hit innings, he struck out five. After hitting a batter in the second, he retired 15 straight before getting pulled from the game.
His dominance Saturday is testament to his dedicated work ethic he had this spring. During that time, he focused on many elements of his game.
“I wanted to develop [my] third pitch, [my] changeup;" Finley said. "I wanted to get ready for my first full season, to try to get more experience out there and try to learn how to focus on getting better.”
Additionally, Finley improved around the strike zone too, specifically with his ability to throw strikes. His commitment to throwing the ball over the plate was evident in his first start, as he threw 64 percent of his pitches for strikes.
While he has been using his fastball and curveball early and often, and seeing constant success with both, he has been concentrating very hard on his changeup this season and its continued development.
“It improved a lot, [through] growing confidence in it," Finley said. "[Saturday] was a little bit shaky but towards the end of the game I started getting a better feel for [the pitch]; with that adrenaline rush that I had, it just got away from me. I had success with [the pitch] so I was pretty happy with it.”
And while Finley is seeing clear results so far, at least in the early going, others in the organization are noting Finley’s development as a pitcher as well. Staten Island pitching coach Travis Phelps feels confident about his growth.
“He made a lot of progress," Phelps noted of Finley's time in Extended Spring Training. "From start to finish there was a lot of improvement and a lot of hard work on his part, developing the changeup and just becoming a [more] complete pitcher.”
Beyond his stats and visible performance so far this season, Finley is evolving as a pitcher in other ways.
“I would say his mental capacity to understand the game and understand pitch execution, pitch sequences, and working hitters [has significantly improved],” Phelps added.
The consensus throughout the clubhouse after Finley’s first start was that his spring work had manifested nicely in his initial performance.
“The first couple innings he was off a little bit, but he made pitches, even in the first two innings, he made some good pitches, but the third all the way through the sixth innings he really pitched well," manager Dave Bialas highlighted the ebb and flow of the game well. "He dominated.”
However, despite Finley’s strong outing, there are still aspects of his game to continue working on. Bialas would like to see Finley’s command develop more.
“[As in with many pitchers], it’s a matter of command," Bialas added "You’ve got to command your fastball, the breaking ball and the change. Starting pitchers need three pitches really to get through the game. He just needs to work on his changeup probably a little more, and throw it a little bit [more often].
Even though Saturday was Finley’s first start of the season, he looked to already be in midseason form.
As he looks to continue building off that performance in his second start of the season on Friday, he’ll also try to adhere to Phelps’ points of emphasis.
“Pitching down in the zone, developing his changeup, doing a very good job of mixing speeds like he’s been doing and continuing to grow as a pitcher and mature," Phelps said.
While there are still aspects of his pitching to work on this season, Finley is excited to keep showing what he’s got in store.
“I just want to keep growing, keep maturing, keep getting innings under my belt, face new hitters, and really get a plan for pitch sequences, to keep on rolling.," Finley added.
“I’ve definitely matured both physically and mentally, both as a player and a person. By knowing the game, just learning each and every day, watching the older guys mentor me and seeing the way they approach the game, to learn something, picking out new mannerisms [along the way]. [Also by] going out there and competing, getting better each day; taking each day like it’s a business day, and just going to work.”
With strong performances like Saturday’s home opener, similar outings are bound to follow.
“He can be tremendous; he’s got a very high ceiling, I think he’s just now starting to tap into his true potential, and I think he’s got a long ways to go,” Phelps concluded.