Farmer looks to add backup shortstop to résumé

February 23rd, 2020

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- They are two of the most important positions on the field, but you don’t often see a player who can be both a catcher and shortstop. Utility player could very well be that rare guy during the 2020 season.

The Reds don’t have a true shortstop to back up Freddy Galvis, and manager David Bell wants to see as much as he can of Farmer at the position during camp. During the Reds’ 7-2 loss to the White Sox on Sunday, Farmer started at shortstop and went 0-for-1 with a walk.

Last season, Farmer played first base, second base, third base, catcher and even pitcher. He also played one inning at shortstop, a position he last played regularly at the University of Georgia before being taken by the Dodgers in the 2013 MLB Draft.

“I know he didn’t play much there during the season,” Bell said of Farmer at shortstop on Sunday. “He did play it in Spring Training a little bit last year, so we got to see him. We have a lot of confidence in his ability to play there. He was a shortstop growing up, and he played there in college. He was a really good one.

“We all have a lot of confidence in Kyle being able to handle different positions. He just has a good knack. He’s a good athlete. He works really hard at it. Really good instincts for a baseball player. That’s not to say it’s easy, so we need to give him some time at short this spring.”

The only player still on the team from the December 2018 trade that also brought Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood from the Dodgers, Farmer batted .230/.279/.410 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs for the Reds in ‘19. As a pinch-hitter from the right side of the plate, he was 10-for-37 (.270) with one homer.

“I’m up for the challenge,” Farmer said. “I’m just happy for the opportunity, honestly. It’s been almost seven years since I’ve played a full game [at shortstop] and focused on it. I will dust off the cobwebs. It’s getting back to feeling natural.”

Farmer was tested early on Sunday during a first-inning shift when he caught a soft liner to his right behind second base for the third out. To end the third inning, he went to the hole to field a Tim Anderson groundout and threw him out without issue.

The plan for Farmer is likely to have his games at shortstop front-loaded to the early portion of the spring schedule and focus on catching in the latter portion. He’ll also take grounders at second base and third base.

“It comes with more responsibilities,” Farmer said of his utility role. “Today, we worked on bunt plays, and my head is racing. I had to focus on every position and see where they were going. When I get into a game, I have to realize that, ‘Hey I have to do this’ at a certain position. It helps me out.”

Farmer’s versatility could help him secure one of the bench spots when Cincinnati breaks camp next month.

“You look at Kyle Farmer and what he brings as a third catcher,” Bell said. “There are ways that we can really maximize that spot. Not that he’s the 26th guy, by any means, but we’ll find a way.”

52 pickup
When Farmer joined the Reds last season, he was assigned No. 52 -- a relatively high jersey number for position players. He could have changed to a lower number after he made the team but opted against it.

“I had No. 65 for the Dodgers when I made my debut, and then I changed to No. 17 and I played like crap,” Farmer explained. “I told myself when I came to the Reds that whatever number I was given I’m not going to move it up. No. 52 is working for me. I spoke at the University of Georgia and my buddy was in the crowd. He said it’s 52, ‘because there’s 52 weeks in a year and you’re here year-round.’ I’m going with that.”

Winker OK
During the bottom of the first inning vs. the White Sox on Sunday, left fielder was hit on the left wrist by a Dylan Crease pitch and immediately walked out of the game back to the dugout. Following his initial examination, Winker told a Reds spokesperson that he was OK. Rule 5 selection Mark Payton pinch-ran for Winker and played left field.

More injury reports
Galvis is being held out of the lineup because of a sore right shoulder.

“He’s maybe a few days behind,” Bell said. “He had a little bit of shoulder soreness. It’s nothing. He’s been looked at, examined. He had his physical, the whole thing. He’s just a few days behind.”

Third baseman Eugenio Suárez (right shoulder surgery) is still making progress but has not advanced beyond one-handed swings and taking grounders without throwing.

“He’s so anxious to get going, but we’ve got time,” Bell said. “It’s good to keep him patient.”

Up next
The Reds will host the Rangers at 3:05 p.m. ET on Monday, and the radio call will be streamed on Gameday Audio. Ace will be on the mound for his first start, while offseason acquisitions and will be in the lineup.