SEATTLE — Playing for five minor-league teams in four organizations wasn’t the craziest, and most frustrating, part of Danny Farquhar’s 2012 season.
No, that would be throwing out of seven different arm slots, running the gamut from submarine to over-the-top, as a passel of pitching gurus tried to ascertain Farquhar’s optimal angle.
“It was change after change after change,’’ recalled Farquhar.
Finally, right around the time he joined the Mariners organization in the July 23 trade that sent Ichiro to the Yankees, Farquhar had an epiphany.
“After being moved so many times, I’m like, I’m fed up with everybody telling me what to do,’’ he said. “I’m going to look out for myself and do what’s best for me, and what I think is my game.”
Settling on a conventional overhand delivery, Farquhar’s career began to stabilize, and now it’s starting to soar.
The undersized 26-year-old right-hander has emerged, improbably, as the Mariners’ go-to guy in the ninth inning, saving three consecutive games after Tom Wilhelmsen was removed from the closing role.
He has earned himself more save opportunities, quite a turnaround for a guy who was drafted by Toronto in the 10th round in 2008, traded to the A’s in 2010 and traded back to the Blue Jays in 2011.
“We definitely thought he was going to be a big-league reliever,’’ said Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos. “The issue was consistency. He liked throwing from multiple slots. We never knew — do we make him a side-armer, make him throw overhand? He always had a good arm, though.”
Farquhar began last year in Class AA with Toronto, was claimed by Oakland in June after the Blue Jays designated him for assignment, and moved to Class AA with the Yankees three weeks later when the A’s designated him. When the Yankees promptly sent him to the Mariners after just one Class AAA appearance, Farquhar’s head was spinning.
“Man, at that point, I was so frustrated,’’ Farqhuar said. “I just told myself to do the best I can pitching and don’t worry about the things you can’t control.”
He racked up a 0.54 earned-run average in 12 innings with Tacoma, earning an invitation to major-league camp this spring. Even though he was assigned back to the Rainiers, Farquhar began to think he had finally found a home.
“Once I rolled into spring training, met all the guys, I thought, this is a place I want to be,’’ he said. “I love it here.”
Farquhar was called up to the Mariners on May 17, and though he displayed a propensity for striking hitters out, he also had some rocky outings. As recently as July 19, Farquhar’s ERA sat at 7.61.
It was right around that time Farquhar began to pitch inside more, at the suggestion of veteran catcher Henry Blanco, and use his curve more frequently, at the behest of pitching coach Carl Willis and others.
He is working on a streak of 122 / 3 scoreless innings, and had retired 21 batters in a row before yielding a two-out single in the ninth on Wednesday.
“He got knocked around pretty good quite a few times when he took the hill,’’ acting manager Robby Thompson said. “Carl and Jaime (bullpen coach Jaime Navarro) and even Eric (Wedge) talked to him time and time again about needing to use his curveball. It’s kind of elementary, but it really helped him. It really does a lot for his cutter and his four-seamer.”
Thompson noted that hitters don’t expect such an explosive fastball from the 5-foot-9 Farquhar, who can touch 96 mph. He has been facing down those perceptions throughout his career, beginning in high school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“Size comes into play big time,’’ he said. “I didn’t get recruited to a lot of big schools in Florida I wanted to go to just because they saw I was 5-9. I lied on every application, told them I was 5-11. Maybe 5-11½. But they saw me in showcases and knew I was undersized.’’
Farquhar longed to go to the University of Florida, where his sister was a cheerleader, but they didn’t even give him a sniff. He wound up at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, where he led the Sun Belt Conference in ERA as a freshman and was second-team All-Conference as a sophomore in 2007.
That was enough to catch the eye of Blue Jays scouts and start him on his topsy-turvy pro career, one that brought him to the majors for a cup of coffee with the Jays in 2011.
Now he is trying to cement his status as the Mariners’ closer.
“He’s got a lot of heart,’’ Thompson said. “He wants the ball and he wants to be in that situation.”
Farquhar firmly believes the travails of last year helped pave the way for his breakthrough this season.
“I learned to not take things for granted,’’ he said. “I learned to be humble. I got a lot of fight out of it.”
And, above all, one consistent arm slot.