CINCINNATI — When Kyle Farmer slugged a three-run home run in the seventh inning of Monday’s 10-5 Reds win over the Brewers, it meant more to the shortstop than important insurance runs for his team. Farmer was in a deep struggle at the plate, and it was eating at him.
With the drive to right-center field, Farmer snapped an 0-for-34 skid that was the longest by a Cincinnati position player since an identical stretch by infielder Bobby Adams in 1954.
“[It] felt like 200 pounds off my back,” Farmer said.
Farmer was already working with hitting coaches Alan Zinter and Joel McKeithan, but sometimes it takes a village to break out of a slump. For the 31-year-old, it started with a tip from his grandmother and ended with a call to Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.
During Sunday’s game vs. the Pirates, Farmer’s grandmother — Kay Gex — heard Larkin talking about his swing. Gex contacted her grandson afterward.
“She texted me right when I got in the car: ‘Call me back!’” Farmer recalled. “My grandmother watches all the games and Barry said something about my swing and I was like, ‘Huh. I’m just going to give him a call and see what he thinks.’”
Larkin played all 19 seasons of his career with the Reds from 1986-2004 and is in his second season as the club’s television analyst for Bally Sports Ohio.
“[Farmer] asked if I had been through it before. I told him I had been through it before,” Larkin said on Tuesday. “He asked me what I did. I shared some things that I did. He asked me what I saw in his swing, and I told him what I saw in his swing. It [was] just reinforcing what he already knows. It wasn’t anything big.”
Larkin declined to detail the advice further, to keep opposing pitchers in the dark.
“It’s nothing different than what Zinter and the guys are talking about,” Larkin said. “He’s a big league player and obviously knows what he’s doing. Sometimes we just need to hear a different voice.
“This is a sport where we fail so much, we fail more than we’re successful. It’s a humbling sport. It’s a frustrating sport. It’s a confidence sport. When you don’t have a little bit of success through not failing as much as you’re going to, your confidence starts to wane a little bit. To have a resource to kind of bounce some things off of is important.”
As he touched home plate following his homer on Monday, Farmer pointed up in appreciation at Larkin in the broadcast booth.
“It’s up to the player to reach out and he did. I was here to help him,” Larkin said. “It was a big deal because he made a big deal of it by pointing up here. I thought that was a fantastic thing for him to do.”
Not long ago, Farmer was experiencing the sunny side of hitting. On April 27, vs. the Padres, he tied a Major League record by hitting four doubles in one game. It hadn’t been done by a Reds player since Billy Hatcher in 1990.
Farmer recorded one more hit on April 28, and then went hitless for eight straight games until his homer on Monday vs. Milwaukee. In the interim, he tried several ways to break the slump. Twice, he showered with his uniform on.
“It’s comforting having somebody like him being a Hall of Famer and having him being able to confide in you, and it’s comforting knowing someone who has done it before is saying that you’ll be OK,” Farmer said. “That you’re going to get through this and stuff. I mean, anybody can say it. My dad can say it. My mom can say it — I love them, but it means a lot more coming from somebody who has been in the game and obviously is a Hall of Famer and stuff.”