Farmer's stellar grab has tragic backstory

September 8th, 2021

CHICAGO -- It could have been a dangerous play Tuesday night, and Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer knew it as he ran back for a popup off the bat of Frank Schwindel in the eighth inning.

The one-out ball was drifting toward short left-center field between Farmer, left fielder Tyler Naquin and center fielder Delino DeShields -- a sort of no-man’s land. Farmer made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch before falling and landing on his back. It was a huge play in Cincinnati’s 4-3 win over the Cubs, but it meant even more to Farmer.

“There is a backstory behind that play. It goes back to college. It’s a very sad story,” Farmer said.

In 2011, while playing shortstop for the University of Georgia, Farmer saw a fly ball hit to a similar spot between himself, center fielder Zach Cone and left fielder Johnathan Taylor. It was Taylor who attempted a diving catch.

“I was going out for that same exact fly ball and the two guys collided,” Farmer recalled. “J.T.’s head hit Cone’s hip and he’s paralyzed still to this day from the neck down from it. Those plays, that play, whenever that ball is hit in the air, I have flashbacks from it.”

Farmer felt like he could block out that painful memory and he was grateful he could make that catch.

“I grew up playing with J.T. and Zach since we were like 10, so I knew them really well. That play right there means a lot to make,” Farmer said. “I kind of overcame a big step mentally there. It was difficult, physically and mentally.”

At the time of the catch, the Reds had a 4-2 lead after Rafael Ortega’s leadoff homer in the eighth against Michael Lorenzen. Following the catch to rob Schwindel, Ian Happ hit a two-out solo homer off Lorenzen. Had Schwindel reached, Happ’s homer would have tied the game.

“A lot of us in the clubhouse were saying one of the best we’ve seen,” Reds manager David Bell said of Farmer's catch. “To the eye, it’s pretty obvious that was a great play. What goes into that and what’s going through your head as you’re running back for a ball, not really knowing what’s there, just trusting it and knowing where he is on the field and that awareness, and then finishing off the play -- just a great play. It definitely needs to be recognized.”

After Farmer secured the ball, he was on his back for a couple of beats before getting up and returning the ball to an appreciative Lorenzen.

“You don’t really know where the center fielder is or the left fielder is. It’s kind of like a do-or-die play and you just have to trust your instincts and go for it,” Farmer said. “It’s tough, but I just had to overcome it.”

Givens often gets the ninth

Bell has been adverse all season to define bullpen roles for his relievers, including the closer in the ninth inning. But lately, Mychal Givens appears to be getting the ball in that spot. Givens has six saves, and no one besides him or Lorenzen has recorded a save since Aug. 5.

“I don’t try to treat it any differently. I just try to go out there and get three outs,” Givens said.

Who gets the ninth between Lorenzen or Givens often depends on the other team’s lineup.

“I’m very confident with him pitching in the ninth inning,” Bell said. “Sometimes Michael Lorenzen would come into a game in the sixth or seventh and come back in the seventh or eighth. That leaves Mychal Givens in the ninth inning. I think he has done a great job since he has been here, he’s very comfortable pitching in the ninth inning. He’s responded really well to that. I’ll continue to look for opportunities in the eighth or ninth; a lot of times it’s going to end up being the ninth.”

This season, Cincinnati has had 10 different pitchers who have recorded saves. Heath Hembree, who was designated for assignment last month, remains the team leader with eight.

“I just enjoy the ‘W’ at the end. It doesn’t matter where I pitch -- at the end of the game or the middle of the game,” Givens said.

Ahead of the Trade Deadline, the Reds acquired Givens from the Rockies in exchange for two Minor Leaguers. He entered play Wednesday with a 2.89 ERA in 46 games overall and a 3.21 ERA in 15 appearances for Cincinnati.

“It’s been great. Coming over here to contend for the playoffs is a better feeling,” Givens said. “I’m having fun, enjoying the teammates, enjoying the experience of being a Cincinnati Red. I’m trying to give us an opportunity to get to the playoffs.”