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Farmer makes strong pitch to stay in rotation

Tigers righty blanks Angels for 6 2/3, hasn't allowed a run in two starts
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- The Tigers still can't be totally sure what kind of pitcher Buck Farmer is. They like who he is right now.

As manager Brad Ausmus discussed Farmer's 6 2/3 scoreless innings in Wednesday's 4-0 win over the Angels, and his 13 scoreless innings in two starts this season, he reviewed the debate the Tigers had this spring over whether to use the right-hander as a starter or reliever. It's the same debate they had the past couple of years.

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DETROIT -- The Tigers still can't be totally sure what kind of pitcher Buck Farmer is. They like who he is right now.

As manager Brad Ausmus discussed Farmer's 6 2/3 scoreless innings in Wednesday's 4-0 win over the Angels, and his 13 scoreless innings in two starts this season, he reviewed the debate the Tigers had this spring over whether to use the right-hander as a starter or reliever. It's the same debate they had the past couple of years.

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They had no idea this spring whether Farmer could make it as a starter, but with little rotation depth, they knew they needed somebody who could.

"There was a split camp in the organization: Is he a starter? Is he a reliever? But we kind of held fast to pitching him in a starting role," Ausmus said. "Really, from the get-go in Spring Training, [general manager] Al [Avila] and his staff and our staff decided that we really didn't want to do that with Buck this year, where he was kind of on a yo-yo string. We felt like [we should] just let him be in [Triple-A] Toledo, let him start, let him get comfortable."

Knowing the average number of fill-in starters a team needs over the course of a season, the Tigers wanted Farmer to be one of theirs. For now, he's pitching more like a pitcher with a rotation spot for the foreseeable future.

Video: LAA@DET: Farmer whiffs Calhoun to retire the side

"I think the goal this year was just to get up here and contribute in any way that I could," Farmer said.

Farmer made his Major League debut in 2014 as an emergency fill-in, going from low Class A West Michigan to Double-A Erie to Detroit in the span of a few weeks thanks to injuries and a taxed Tigers pitching staff. but he pitched better than should be expected of a fifth-round pick in his first full pro season.

"I went from sleeping on an air mattress in Erie to being put up in the Atheneum [Hotel in downtown Detroit]," Farmer said. "There's no comparison. It was definitely a blur."

He has bounced between Detroit and Toledo ever since, sometimes a starter, sometimes a reliever. He never enjoyed a stretch like his last two outings for the Tigers.

Farmer isn't a power pitcher, and he was throwing a tick off from his usual velocity Wednesday. But he has a better grasp of his secondary pitches, from a solid changeup to a slow slider that is more than a show pitch. More importantly, he has the confidence to pitch in the strike zone instead of nibbling.

"That's been the biggest thing for me this year, just staying in the strike zone," Farmer said. "Everybody asks me. I mean, you can't defend walks, and I know position players hate it when you just give free passes."

His lone walk Wednesday was his last hitter. He had fallen behind plenty before that -- two 3-0 counts, three other 2-0 situations -- but held the damage to a mere two-out single on a 3-1 pitch.

Farmer's five strikeouts paled in comparison to his 11 over 6 1/3 innings against the White Sox over Memorial Day weekend, but nobody hit him for extra bases and nobody reached scoring position.

Farmer's 13 scoreless innings matched Matthew Boyd for the longest streak by a Tiger this season. Farmer has replaced Boyd in the rotation for now; the longer he pitches like this, the better chance he has to stay a while.

"There's a lot of satisfaction there," Farmer said. "It all goes back to just being able to get in a rhythm, and just being on schedule. That goes a long way. Hopefully it continues."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Buck Farmer