The right-hander says he is over-pitching, while manager Lloyd McClendon says the reliever’s command “has not been there.”
The question is simple: What’s wrong with Danny Farquhar?
A one-time closer for the Mariners and fan favorite, the 5-foot-9 right-hander has struggled this season to find the consistency of the past two years. Coming into Wednesday’s game, Farquhar had a 5.63 ERA in 15 appearances.
Of those 15 outings, he’s pitched a total of 19 innings and he’s allowed 19 hits and issued seven walks. He’s had just five appearances where he didn’t allow a base runner.
On Tuesday night, he turned an easy, low-leverage situation with a 7-0 lead into a minor mess, giving up a one-out single and two straight walks to load the bases. It eventually led to three runs. His command has been spotty. He’s given up hard hits and issued an uncharacteristic number of walks. None of which is indicative of the pitcher he’s been in the past two seasons. A year ago, he was outstanding, posting a 3-1 record and a 2.66 ERA with one save in 66 appearances in 71 innings pitched. But this season, he’s pitched like that version of himself sporadically. The Mariners know he’s better than what he’s shown. He knows it.
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There seems to be no easy or consensus answer to the question of what’s plaguing Farquhar.
“I just think he’s trying to be good with everything,” said catcher Mike Zunino. “He doesn’t need to put the cutter on the black every time. I think if he trusts it over the outer third, he’ll be good. And sometimes you can start overthrowing when you feel like you have to do too much. Everything kind of expands and you can be a little bit erratic.”
Manager Lloyd McClendon admitted being a “little concerned” after Tuesday night’s win, saying “something’s not right there.” Before Wednesday’s game, McClendon said the troubles are simple.
“He’s just been inconsistent,” McClendon said. “I think it’s command more than anything with the fastball and the cutter. The command has not been there.”
Farquhar’s self-analysis falls somewhere between Zunino and McClendon’s assessments.
“I think I’m just over-pitching instead of pounding the zone,” he said. “I think maybe a little less thinking and more free and easy is my next approach; just kind of let it go and don’t worry about anything.”
Farquhar admitted his cut fastball has been an issue.
“My cutter is not where I want it to be,” he said. “The last couple of years I could locate my cutter in and out, up and down and do whatever I want with it. But right now, it’s not pinpoint. That’s my starting point because that’s my bread-and-butter pitch. Everything works off that. Once I get that going, I think I will be rolling.”
Unlike some managers, McClendon doesn’t necessarily have set innings for his set-up men, preferring to play matchups. Rookie Carson Smith, not Farquhar, has become McClendon’s first choice for a high-leverage situation late in the game.
“If I had to say I had one set guy for the eighth inning, I’d probably say it would be Smith more than anybody,” McClendon said. “So it doesn’t really change that. But it certainly hurts our flexibility a little bit because Danny is so good at getting left-handers out as well. We need to get him back on track. We need to get him straightened out. He’s just too valuable to our success. We’ve got to get him right.”
How do they get him right?
“The biggest thing I can do is get him back out there,” McClendon said. “It’s hard to straighten him out when he’s not pitching. Obviously, you’d like to have a lower leverage situation. But if the matchup called for it, I wouldn’t be afraid to put him in there late in the game.”
Austin Jackson ran and took batting practice before Tuesday’s game with McClendon watching as part of his rehab for a sprained ankle.
“It was so-so,” McClendon said. “It wasn’t great. The running part was a tick below average. It was the first time he’s been out.”
The running straight ahead was fine. But it’s varying off a straight path that is the issue.
“I guess it’s the cutting action and the stop and go,” McClendon said. “If he had to go right now, he couldn’t do that. It’s more controlled right now. It was the first time he’s had cleats on. So you expect him to be a little stiff. He actually swung the bat OK.”
Jackson may be ready to start his rehab stint by the weekend.
“That’s our hope,” McClendon said.
• The Mariners signed veteran reliever Logan Kensing to a minor-league deal. He’ll report to Class AAA Tacoma. Kensing was one of the Rainiers’ best relievers last season, going 6-3 with a 3.58 ERA in 49 appearances.
• Hard-throwing prospect Edwin Diaz, who was the Mariners’ co-starting pitcher of the year last season, was promoted to Class AA Jackson. Entering Wednesday, Diaz was 2- 0 with a 1.70 ERA in seven starts for Class A Bakersfield, including 42 strikeouts in 37 innings pitched.