Kyle Farnsworth is intimidating. The Tampa Bay Rays right-hander throws hard and isn’t afraid to come inside. He is also a sculpted 6-foot-4, 240 pounds with a background in martial arts. Charging the mound against him has never been a good idea.
That tough-guy image has overshadowed a long and mostly successful career. Farnsworth has never been a star, but he has appeared in 814 regular season games and 15 post-season games. In 941 innings he has fanned 934 batters. He has backed down to none of them.
David Laurila: How different a pitcher are you now compared to when you broke into the big leagues?
Kyle Farnsworth: Not too much different. I obviously don’t throw as hard as I did back then. That’s going to happen over the years and this is my 15th season. You just have to continue to make adjustments as hitters make adjustments to you.
DL: How hard did you throw in those early years?
KF: I think I topped out at 103, but I was mostly high-90s. You can get away with a lot more mistakes when you’re throwing that hard, as opposed to being 90 or something like that. It’s a good luxury to have.
DL: Did you reach a point in your career where velocity wasn’t as important?
KF: Not really, although I realized that maybe movement was a little more important than velocity. Eventually hitters are going to catch up to straight 98, as opposed to movement and 94. That’s a lot harder to hit and the type of thing you figure out the longer you are into your career. You’d like to figure them out a whole earlier, but you figure them out when you figure them out.
DL: Have you ever done anything to improve the movement on your fastball?
KF: No. I threw a two-seamer back then; I just didn’t throw it too much. The only thing I’ve really picked up the last couple years is more of a cutter. I learned it and started throwing it more, but everything else is pretty much the same.
DL: Why did you add a cutter?
KF: I don’t know, just something different. I’ve always been a fastball-slider guy and I wanted a ball sinking one way and another cutting in to lefties. I wanted to be able to get in on lefties a little more, because I never really had a pitch that did that.
DL: You’ve pitched better in some seasons than others. Why?
KF: I don’t know. I guess hitters make adjustments and it’s up to the pitcher to make adjustments to them. You have to just keep on going out there and figuring out ways to get guys out.
DL: Has it simply been a matter of adjustments, or has it been command as well?
KF: I’m sure it’s a mixture of both. If you could figure it out, this game would be easy. It’s just one of those things you just have to pay attention to and make adjustments.
DL: You were a starter when you broke in with the Cubs, in 1999. How differently might your career have gone had you remained in that role?
KF: I have no idea. I’ve played 15 years, so I’m not complaining at all. But I didn’t really have a third pitch that was effective. Like I said, I’ve had a great career so far. I’ve been very blessed to play a kid’s game for a long time.
DL: Why have you never developed a quality changeup?
KF: I’ve had success with what I’ve had. And really, coming out of the bullpen, it’s hard to command three or four pitches as opposed to controlling just two. You’re not out there long enough to be using three or four. I think that’s the main thing. Everything comes off the fastball.
DL: Are you an adrenaline guy?
KF: Yes and no. You have to learn how to control that. You can’t get over-amped. Maybe it works for some people, but I need to make sure I stay relaxed out there and don’t overthrow. If I get too much adrenaline going, I just have to try to control it.
DL: Do you like to work up in the zone?
KF: Not always, but there’s a place for it. Lots of mistakes up in the zone are hit a long ways, so I prefer to pitch down in the zone. But sometimes you have to.
DL: Has intimidation played a role in your success?
KF: I have no idea, because I’m not a hitter. I don’t know what they think. I just go out there and get those guys out any way I can.