Detroit — Just before a phone call, Buck Farmer was walking his dog, Slider, a Cocker Spaniel and Cavalier King mix. Since the season ended a few weeks ago, he's also been hunting near his home, north of Atlanta — no good stories yet — and has taken in a Luke Bryan concert.
"It's nice to finally take a step back and relax," Farmer said during a conversation Wednesday evening.
Not that he'd trade what happened in 2014 for anything, of course.
"Even though it was stressful," said Farmer, "I can't ask for anything more from first full professional season."
Asking for more would be next to impossible. After all, he played at every level of the Tigers' system — from Single A to the majors — in a span of a little more than three weeks from late July to the middle of August. In doing so, he became the first player ever to play for the Single-A Whitecaps and the Tigers in the same season, excluding those on rehab assignments.
And he was so impressive along the way, he's put himself right in the middle of the fifth-starter competition expected to commence in Lakeland in February.
It's worth noting, Farmer was a fifth-round draft pick out of Georgia Tech … in 2013.
"I was kind of dumbfounded by it, actually," Farmer said of his rapid ascension. "They had given me kind of an indication that I would move up to Double A, but at no point did I think I would get the opportunity to pitch or move up to Triple A at the end of the year, much less make my major-league debut. It was unbelievable."
Farmer, 23, began the year at West Michigan, and was very impressive, sporting a 2.60 ERA and 116 strikeouts over 103.2 innings. That earned the right-hander the promotion to Erie, where he made two nice starts.
Then came the phone call he never could've expected, from Double-A manager Lance Parrish.
He was going to Detroit, to start Aug. 13 against the Pirates.
"He gave me a call and told me," Farmer said. "I was kind of like, 'Are you sure you've got the right number?' "
Farmer couldn't believe it. Understandably nervous, he spent an hour on the phone that night with Mike Henneman, his pitching coach at West Michigan, who calmed him down, told him major-league hitters are human, too, and stressed he was getting the call for a reason. Of course, the reason was this: The Tigers, frankly, had nowhere else to turn in the wake of Anibal Sanchez's pectoral injury, after Jake Thompson had been traded, Drew VerHagen had been injured, and Robbie Ray had struggled mightily.
So just 20 days removed from West Michigan, Farmer was in The Show.
"I was excited not having to eat PB&J for postgame meals," he quipped.
His debut featured five sold innings, more than anyone could've expected. The Tigers won the game. He was pleased. Then he headed to Toledo, where he got absolutely rocked in his first start there. He didn't get out of the first inning. Back with Detroit for his next start, that didn't go much better.
At that point, Tigers brass suspect all the stress finally had caught up him. Get this: From Aug. 1 on, Farmer lived in a hotel, whether in Erie, Toledo or Detroit. He took numerous cabs from Detroit to Toledo, and back.
Farmer eventually righted the ship, with a start so good at Toledo, it earned him a callup to Detroit for September, where he pitched mop-up duty out of the bullpen. The Tigers, at that point, didn't want to push it with him. But they will come spring training, when they'll likely be looking for a No. 5 starter. That could come down to Farmer, Ray, VerHagen, Kyle Ryan or Kyle Lobstein. And the runners-up still could find their way into the Tigers' bullpen.
For Farmer to be in play there, he knows he has to fine-tune his command, particularly with the first-pitch fastball and his secondary stuff, which includes a slider and two, varying-speed changeups.
"That's my plan, that's my drive, to go down there and compete," said Farmer, who's already started his offseason conditioning program. "It's a great feeling.
"But it's still shocking."