Farmer ready for challenge of trying to win Reds shortstop job

Versatile utility man scored only run for Reds in Cactus League opener

The Cincinnati Reds looked into the stands Sunday in Goodyear, Ariz., and saw living, breathing fans — not the cardboard cutouts who witnessed the 2020 season at Great American Ball Park.

Infielder Kyle Farmer missed the bus to the stadium and caught a ride with manager David Bell, and together they noticed right away fans outside the stadium.

“We were like, ‘Wow, that looks really weird,’” Farmer said, “but it was awesome. It seems normal now. It feels great to have those people in the fan in the stands. It feels like real baseball. Last year was awful. Cardboard cutouts don’t talk, but those guys do. So it was a lot of fun to have them out there.”

While Goodyear Ball Park can seat as many as 10,311 fans, the local health department will limit capacity to 21 percent. There were 2,211 fans at the game Sunday. It was the first of 28 Cactus League games for the Reds.

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Farmer started at shortstop and hit first in the order in a 5-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Farmer went 1-for-3. He doubled in the third and scored on a single by Joey Votto.

Farmer, 30, started 10 games at shortstop for the Reds last season, and he’s one of the candidates to earn playing time there this season along with Dee Strange-Gordon and Jose Garcia. Farmer started Sunday alongside the three returning starters in the infield: third baseman Eugenio Suarez; second baseman Mike Moustakas; and Votto, the first baseman.

“I love being up he middle with (Moustakas),” Farmer said. “He keeps it light and loose. So does Joey, and so does Geno. It’s a very loose atmosphere in the middle infield and in the whole infield.”

Farmer also played second base, third base, left field and even one inning at first base last season. His versatility has helped him find a reserve role with the Reds the last two seasons, but this could be the first season he finds a regular starting job. He started the National League Division Series opener at shortstop against the Atlanta Braves last season and went 0-for-5 in the 1-0 loss.

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“Ending last year, being able to play in the playoffs, it was good for me to play in the shortstop role and play well there,” Farmer said. “Hopefully, I get as many chances as possible to show what else I can do facing right-handed pitching and see if I can kind of overcome that challenge and and see what happens. But I think I’m in a good position right now and hopefully I can stay healthy and keep working hard.”

This is the fourth season in the big leagues for Farmer, 30, who appeared in 59 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017 and 2018 before the Reds acquired him in the trade that also brought Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood to Cincinnati. He’s the only player from that group who remains with the Reds.

“In my past spring trainings, I’ve been trying to focus on making the club, honestly as a bench guy or in a utility role,” Farmer said. “I’m honestly still trying to make the club. No spot is safe on this roster, especially with the guys we have. But I’m trying to get comfortable with it and get my body to hopefully play every day this year. I’m more locked in than usual. Rather than just trying to make the roster, I’m trying to earn a starting spot. That comes with a lot of responsibilities and a lot of focus. That’s what I trained this offseason for. Mentally, I’m ready to take on the challenge.”

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