By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Kyle Farmer spent considerable time immersed in an ice water tub in the Cincinnati Reds’ trainer’s room before Tuesday night’s game.
It was preparation for his first appearance of the season behind the plate, wearing the hot and bulky catcher’s gear.
Somebody asked him if he lost a bet to have to catch on the hottest day of the year?
“What? Hottest day of the year? Don’t tell me that. I know it isn’t. Close, but it isn’t. You’re just trying to mess with my head.”
Farmer was signed originally by the Los Angeles Dodgers as a catcher, but he displayed versatility in the minors and he played the infield more than he caught for the Dodgers.
He was traded to the Reds in the off-season and the Reds recognized his all-around abilities and played him at second base, first base and third base.
That changed, though, when No. 1 catcher Tucker Barnhart went on the injured list, leaving the Reds only with back-up catcher Curt Casali.
Casali has been catching every day in the debilitating heat so it was time to ask Farmer to strap on what they call the tools of ignorance.
Even though he hasn’t caught a game for the Reds, he and coach J.R. House, a former major league catcher, worked every day on sharpening Farmer’s catching skills.
“Our comfort level with Kyle behind the plate is high,” said manager David Bell. “That’s not to say it is going to be perfect because he hasn’t caught all year. But we are at the point where we need him to catch.
“If anybody can do this, it’s Kyle because he is a great athlete, he has experience and he is really smart,” said Bell. “It may not be perfect but we have a lot of confidence that he will be able to handle himself. We wouldn’t put him out there if we didn’t have confidence because these games are so important.”
Yes, it has been three months (spring training) since Farmer was behind the plate in any kind of game and he said, “Yes, I do remember how to put the gear on.
“I have missed it, but tomorrow after once the body lets me know I may not miss it,” he said with a laugh.
Farmer said he expects the most difficult aspect of it, “Probably will be blocking balls. But I’m working with (pitcher) Tanner Roark tonight and he’s good, always around the plate. And I caught Tanner a lot in spring training.
“I also have good mentors in Tucker and Curt and I’ve been peppering them with questions and asking how to go about it,” he said. “So I’m going in real comfortable about it. I don’t know how I’ll feel trying to hit in about the seventh inning because I haven’t tried to hit late in a game after catching”
Farmer said he probably wouldn’t be in the majors if it hadn’t been for a manager in the Dodgers minor league system.
“Bill Haselman was my manager all through my climb up the minors,” said Farmer. “It started in high-A. And he stayed with me as manager as I advanced. So I started peppering him and saying, ‘Hey, let me play some infield on my days off because I love it.’ He eventually let me do it. It was fun and nobody had seen me play infield.
“Everybody thought I was just an average catcher and then they saw me out there doing that,” Farmer added. “I ended up playing more infield than catching. I got more starts in the infield than catching with the Dodgers. So it’s just something I have in my bag. I was thankful I got drafted as a catcher and that just created an opportunity.”
Farmer said he picks the brain of former Reds catcher turned broadcaster David Ross. “He has given me a lot of advice on playing other positions and he told me to keep working hard at those other positions and it would keep me in the game a long time,” he said.
Actually, even though he signed as a catcher Tuesday was his first major league start at the position and fifth appearance.
That’s what the Reds saw in him when they made certain the Dodgers included him in the trade that also brought them pitcher Alex Wood and outfielder Yasiel Puig.
This year he has made 10 starts at second base, five starts at first base and three starts at third base. Bell believes that Farmer’s best position might be shortstop.
The 28-year-old Farmer actually played shortstop at the University of Georgia, starting 211 games at that position.
“It’s so rare what he can do,” said Bell. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen an athlete who can go out and play a major league shortstop and be a major league catcher. I’ve seen guys who can stand out there, but not actually look the part. We saw it in spring training and everybody was impressed.”
Farmer broke into a wide grin when he was told what Bell said about his shortstop ability and said, “That’s nice to hear. I love shortstop.”
But on Tuesday night his love affair was with the catcher’s gear.
SLOWLY, THE INJURED pitchers are getting closer to a return. Relief pitcher Wandy Peralta threw a bullpen session Tuesday and Alex Wood is scheduled to do the same thing Wednesday.
FARM REPORT: Chattanooga (AA) third baseman Mitch Nay was named Southern League Player of the Month for June.
Nay, 26, was a Rule 5 pick from the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017. Last month he hit .356 with six homers, 29 RBI and 19 runs scored.
Greeneville (low-A) outfielder Allan Cerda was named Appalachian League Player of the Week after hitting .368 with four homers and 11 RBI.
Cerda, 19, was a non-drafted free agent signed by the Reds last July out of New York City.