Back from the brink, Buck Farmer working to regain role in Tigers' bullpen
Kansas City, Mo. — The low point for Buck Farmer wasn’t so much getting the news that he was being designated for assignment. It was going home and telling his wife and young family that they might have to move.
“The first few days sitting there watching my family pack up our place in Detroit and go home (to Georgia) because we were uncertain where I might land or what might happen — that was tough,” Farmer said before the game Monday. “And just mentally realizing I was no longer in the big leagues.
“Something I worked so hard for and to have it taken away — not taken away, it was a self-inflicted thing — it was one of the toughest things for me to accept.”
He’d been on the Tigers’ 40-man roster for eight years. Besides Miguel Cabrera, he was the longest-tenured Tigers player. But he had struggled all through spring training and all through April and he knew he was barely hanging on to his roster spot when manager AJ Hinch gave him the news.
“Getting DFA’d, getting taken off the roster and put behind the eight ball is one of the toughest things I’ve endured in my career,” he said. “It was humbling, to say the least.”
Also humbling was waiting around a week or more and realizing that not only were there no teams interested in trading for you — the Tigers had shopped him around the league — none were even interested in claiming him off waivers.
Dispirited, maybe. Defeated, not even close.
“It didn’t stop me from working and wanting to get back here,” he said. “I know I’ve had some success over the past three years, I know I can pitch at this level.”
The minute the waiver deadline passed, Farmer accepted the minor-league assignment from the Tigers, hopped in his car and met the Toledo Mud Hens in Indianapolis.
“I don’t have much patience, I guess,” he said. “I wanted to get back to playing baseball and get back to working and try to get back up here.”
He’s done that. Working with Toledo pitching coach Doug Bochtler, he fixed a mechanical flaw in his delivery. And after a couple of rough outings in Toledo, not only did his fastball come back to life, he regained the feel for his change-up.
“It was just about holding my lane toward the plate,” Farmer said. “I’m always going to be that guy who spins off and goes toward the first-base side. But I worked on being able to release the pitch before I do that. Stay true through the plate.
“Then whatever my body does after is just kind of a byproduct.”
The last thing Farmer expected was to be back this quickly. But, with the Tigers having essentially three bullpen games (two scheduled and one not) in the span of four days, he was next man up in Sunday's 4-1 loss to the White Sox.
And even though the results were marred by a couple of hit batsmen, Farmer’s stuff was as electric as it’d been at any point this season. His four-seam fastball had good spin, up to 2,555 rpm and was sitting at 95 mph. And his hard change-up was biting.
Only three balls were put in play against him, none hit hard. He got three swings and misses on 11 swings and six called strikes.
“It was a mixed bag of emotions and a mixed bag results-wise,” he said. “But the way I feel, the way I felt yesterday, I feel like I’m back to where I am comfortable being. The work to stay at that point, though, is always present. It always was.”
A back-to-form Buck Farmer would be a huge boost to the Tigers’ bullpen. But for right now, he’d prefer to just keep taking small steps forward and see where it takes him.
“This has made me take a step back and realize what an opportunity this is, what an incredible game and career this is,” he said. “It’s also made me accept failure, then take it one step at a time and keep working on everything I need to get back and stay up here.”
Around the horn
Right-handed reliever Michael Fulmer (shoulder strain) was activated before the game on Monday. He had been on the injured list since June 3.
… Infielder Isaac Paredes was optioned back to Toledo to make room for Fulmer. It left the Tigers with just two position players on the bench Monday, with 11 relievers.
… Third baseman Jeimer Candelario (bereavement) is with the Tigers in Kansas City and Hinch expects him to be active and available Tuesday. Candelario was waiting to clear Major League Baseball's COVID-19 protocol. He'd gone back to the Dominican Republic to tend to a family emergency and thus has to go through intake testing.
… Right-handed starter Spencer Turnbull (forearm strain) has begun his rehab program in Lakeland. He has not yet been cleared to start throwing.
“He’s fine,” Hinch said. “We’re just being ultra conservative, just making sure we don’t bring more inflammation into the forearm.”
Tigers at Royals
► First pitch: 8:10 p.m. Tuesday, Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
► TV/radio: BSD/97.1
► LHP Mike Minor (5-3, 4.50), Royals: This is the third time the Tigers will face the veteran lefty. They put four runs and 10 hits on him on May 21 at Comerica, but in the two starts, Minor has punched out 17 in 11⅔ innings. He’s also coming off a beauty, holding the Athletics to a run and three hits, with eight strikeouts, in seven innings at Oakland.
► RHP Casey Mize (3-4, 3.44), Tigers: He will go into his 13th start this season with an extra day of rest coming off a laborious 99-pitch, six-inning outing against the Mariners. He fought his command the entire night and still all the damage against him came on one swing — a three-run homer by Kyle Seager. Opponents this year are slashing .210/.293/.381 — he’s been pretty stingy.