Farrell returns after trauma from line drive

August 24th, 2019

CHICAGO -- Rangers pitcher said he remembers everything about that afternoon at Scottsdale Stadium when Giants infielder Jalen Miller hit a vicious line drive back to the mound.

“It was weird,” Farrell said. “As a pitcher, you are always prepared for a comebacker. But the pitch itself was what really caught me off-guard. It was a [first-pitch] fastball to a right-hander. Most pitchers will [say] you don’t expect that pitch to come back at you. So, it caught me by surprise. Maybe I wasn’t able to get out of the way, regardless.”

Farrell recounted that terrible March 2 Spring Training day while standing in the Rangers’ clubhouse Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field. Almost six months later, Farrell is back in the big leagues. The Rangers have activated him off the injured list, and he brought his long odyssey to an end with two perfect innings against the White Sox on Friday night.

“I tried not to build it up too much because I wanted to pitch well,” Farrell said after striking out two of the six White Sox batters he faced. “It’s like your debut. You want to take it all in and appreciate it. After all that I went through and all the hard work, there was a lot of support from people who really care about me, and I am thankful for that.”

It was a long and difficult journey.

Miller’s line drive hit Farrell directly in the face and fractured his jaw. Farrell said he never lost consciousness and the first thing that crossed his mind was he was able to breathe.

“When I got hit, I was out of breath for about 30 seconds,” Farrell said. “That was alarming. Maybe that’s why I was conscious. After that, as soon I could breathe -- yeah, I’m in pain but at least I am OK.”

Rangers manager Chris Woodward was among those who went to the mound to check on Farrell.

“That was really hard to watch,” Woodward said. “After it happened, to go out and see the way it looked, it was pretty gruesome. There was blood coming out of spots I didn’t realize blood could come out of. It was not good.”

Farrell sustained a fractured jaw that required surgery. The jaw was wired shut, and he couldn’t talk or eat for days. He went on a liquid diet, losing both weight and strength.

The jaw still wasn’t the big concern.

Farrell also suffered a severe concussion from the hit. That isn’t surprising considering how hard the ball was hit, but it took a long time before Farrell could get over the symptoms.

“For two months, nothing was getting better because of the concussion,” Farrell said. “I thought, ‘Am I going to lose the whole season? Will I get better?’ That took a lot out me.”

The Rangers sent Farrell to see Dr. Micky Collins, an expert in sports-related concussions, at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Collins has worked with many athletes who sustained traumatic concussions, including auto racer Dale Earnhardt Jr. and NHL star Sidney Crosby.

The list of baseball players includes Clint Frazier, Justin Morneau, Andrew Miller, David Ross and Brock Holt. Collins and his staff helped former Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos recover from a severe concussion in 2012 while with Tampa Bay.

“For two months, it was a migraine,” Farrell said. “Really unable to handle light, noise, direct conversation, really taxing … times where you try to tip at a restaurant and your brain doesn’t work, doesn’t fire. I learned more about how the brain works than I wanted to know and what a concussion does to you.”

It wasn’t until June that Farrell could go two to three days at a time without experiencing noticeable symptoms. He refused to think about quitting.

“It’s not really my personality to give up,” Farrell said. “Certainly, there were times of frustration, but never to the point to giving up. It’s what I want to do. It’s my job, it’s my passion, it’s what I want to be doing with my life right now.”

Farrell was cleared to pitch in June and slowly built his strength back up. His first game was July 23 for the Rookie-level Arizona League Rangers.

“Somebody asked me if I had anxiety getting back in front of hitters and stuff,” Farrell said. “There was some thought, but I spoke to enough people to really acclimate myself to, ‘Hey, I’ve got to get back out there.’ First outing was nothing but joy to get back out on the field.”

Farrell pitched in nine games in the Minors, four in the Arizona League and five with Double-A Frisco. Over 8 2/3 innings with the Roughriders, he allowed two hits and two runs (one earned), walked four and struck out 12.

The Rangers are ready to watch him pitch. Farrell, the son of former Red Sox manager John Farrell, is in his seventh season in professional baseball and pitched in 30 big league games from 2017-18 with the Royals, Reds and Cubs.

There is a reason the Rangers claimed him on waivers last winter. They want to see if he can be a candidate for their pitching staff next year.

“Luke has persevered through it,” assistant general manager Shiraz Rehman said. “He went through the rehab assignment. His velocity has come back. He is missing a lot of bats. We are looking for length in the bullpen. We are ready to give him a shot.”