Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Kyle Farnsworth digs in as Tampa Bay Rays closer, even if Joe Maddon won't say so

With a few mechanical and mental adjustments, Kyle Farnsworth, mostly a middle reliever in his previous 12 big-league seasons, is developing into Joe Maddon’s last-inning man.

Associated Press

With a few mechanical and mental adjustments, Kyle Farnsworth, mostly a middle reliever in his previous 12 big-league seasons, is developing into Joe Maddon’s last-inning man.

MILWAUKEE — Manager Joe Maddon is still playing semantics, preferring the more generic "relief pitcher extraordinaire" title than actually calling Kyle Farnsworth the Rays closer.

But now Maddon has something else he'd like to call Farns­worth: All-Star.

"I really would hope people start mentioning his name," Maddon said. "I think he absolutely deserves that."

Just the thought would have seemed unlikely a few months ago, but Farnsworth, 35, has emerged as perhaps the biggest surprise of the Rays' season, stepping into the vacant — sorry, Joe — closer role he had little experience with, and excelling.

Farnsworth has converted 15 of 16 save opportunities, ranking third in the American League with a 93.8 save percentage, and among AL closers is second with a 2.17 ERA and fourth with a .217 opponents batting average.

"The ability was there," Farns­worth said. "It was just a matter of trying to get a chance to do it."

He has done it with an expanded repertoire of pitches, with extensive preparation that starts with computer work and note-taking early each afternoon, with a calm demeanor that belies his wild-man reputation, with a mature and wise approach.

And, also, with an attitude.

"It's a mind-set," starter David Price said. "A closer has to have that 'it' about him, and Farns­worth definitely does. He has it, whatever it is. He's breathing fire every time he steps out there, and he takes it personally."

Farnsworth spent most of his first 12 big-league seasons in middle relief, starting early in his career and getting only one extended opportunity to close in 2005, when he converted 16 of 18 saves for the Tigers and Braves. Otherwise it was just occasional duty (including some in the Yankees spotlight), and it didn't go well, just 11 of 45 successfully.

He said he is not one to draw satisfaction from proving the skeptics wrong, but he is clearly, in his own way, proud of what he has done, getting a ball from each game he saves and scribbling the details. The plan is to eventually put them in a display case, though for now it's a bit more informal. "They're just in my sock drawer at home," he said.

Maddon is impressed with what Farnsworth has done and how he has done it, especially noting his team-first attitude and willingness, as opposed to some closers, to work in nonsave situations.

"He's labored in different markets; he's had some successes, some failures and maybe some not-met expectations based on this big arm," Maddon said. "But I really think he's persevered to the point where he's figured himself out. And right now you've got one of the better relief pitchers in the American League."

A few small changes over the past two seasons have made significant differences. He repositioned his back foot square against the rubber to help his alignment to the plate. He started throwing a cutter more consistently and effectively (especially to left-handers), and he added a sinker to mix in with his usual high heat and slider to get more ground balls. And just in the past month he went back to using a splitter, though with a "so far, so good, knock on wood" proviso, as in previous seasons it led to elbow issues.

"This guy is a pitcher, man," Maddon said. "He could start with that stuff. He pitches and he throws strikes and he's good against righties and lefties and he's resilient and he's durable. He's all these things."

He's just not, of course, a closer.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Joining forces

St. Petersburg and Tampa business leaders team up to try to get a new stadium for the Rays. 1B

Kyle Farnsworth digs in as Tampa Bay Rays closer, even if Joe Maddon won't say so 06/23/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 23, 2011 11:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. It's not a game, but the names are all the same in this football family

    Footballpreps

    TAMPA — A coach yells across the field into a scrum of blue-and-white clad football bodies at Jefferson High: "Kim Mitchell! Kim Mitchell, come here!"

    These twins are not only identical, but they have almost identical names. Kim Mitchell III, left, and Kim Mitchell IV are  talented football players at Jefferson High with Division I-A college offers. Kim  III wears No. 22 and plays cornerback while Kim IV wears No. 11 and plays safety. (Scott Purks, Special to the Times)
  2. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (3) pumps his fist to the crowd after Tampa Bay's 29-7 victory over Chicago on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. The Bucs play at Minnesota at 1 p.m. Sunday. WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times

  3. Cannon Fodder podcast: Sorting through the Bucs' injuries

    Bucs

    Greg Auman sorts through the Bucs players sidelined with injury and illness in the latest edition of our Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Kwon Alexander left the Bucs' game against the Bears with a hamstring injury. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. College football week 4: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions

    College

    The Times' college football coverage team makes its picks for week 4 of the college football season:

    USF coach Charlie Strong and the Bulls face Temple in a 7:30 p.m. game Thursday at Raymond James Stadium. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  5. Young girl injured by 105 mph foul at Yankee Stadium renews call for more netting

    Ml

    NEW YORK — A young girl at Yankee Stadium was injured by a 105 mph foul ball off the bat of Todd Frazier during Wednesday's game against Minnesota, leading some players to call for protective netting to be extended.

    Baseball fans reacts as a young girl is tended to before she is carried out of the seating area after being hit by a line drive in the fifth inning of a baseball game between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, at Yankee Stadium in New York. [Associated Press]