ATLANTA -- Every time Detroit Tigers bullpen coach Jeff Pico answers the phone, Buck Farmer hopes to hear his name.
Returning to his home state of Georgia for only the second time in his MLB career for a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves, Farmer's hopes to hear his name called grew larger as the innings began to wind down last Friday night.
"The excitement level is always at an all-time high," Farmer said. "It gets even more crazy and adrenaline-packed when it's a close ball game and you're coming in in the seventh or eighth with either runners on, or even in a clean inning. If it's a one-run game, your inning can make the difference. I take pride in not letting those runners score."
With Tigers' starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull working himself into a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning, the Conyers native was the man called upon with an opportunity to pitch against his home town team for the first time in his career.
With the bases loaded with nobody out, Farmer got Atlanta's Brian McCann to hit a soft sacrifice fly to right before getting Charlie Culberson to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
The outing for the former Rockdale County standout marked his 27th appearance on the season and his sixth season overall pitching for the Tigers. Having spent his entire career playing in the American League, Farmer said prior to the game that it was special to be back in Atlanta for only the second time in his career.
It was also Farmer's first introduction to SunTrust Park, the new home of the Braves.
"I like this place," Farmer said. "It's definitely not like any other stadium that we play in. There's a lot going on around here, which is nice. It seems like the fan interaction is probably pretty high because everything feels like it's on top of you."
I try to come out before we do everything and walk around the warning track for a little while. This quickly became a cool stadium for me, not only because it's in my home town, but it's because it's in a cool area."
Farmer was last in Atlanta for the final three-game series at Turner Field in 2016.
"It was cool because we played the last game at Turner Field," Farmer said. "That was neat because it was the stadium that I grew up coming to to watch baseball games. Now coming back to play in this stadium is always fun. I get to see family and friends and they get to come out to the park and watch me play a game for a living."
The 28-year-old very nearly became a Brave himself after being drafted by his hometown team in the 46th round of the 2009 MLB draft. He later turned down that offer and took his talents to Georgia Tech, where he starred on the mound for four years.
"I look back on it and wouldn't have done it any other way," Farmer said. "Some guys come right out of high school and thrive. Going to Georgia Tech for four years taught me a lot of things, especially about how to be on my own. I couldn't imagine being on my own and that also being my livelihood. Those years at Georgia Tech were important, for sure."
Farmer was drafted again after his junior season at Georgia Tech in 2012 by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 15th round, but again, didn't sign. He said his decision to turn down the second offer was much more difficult than the first.
"It was, for sure," Farmer said. "There's a lot of stuff that can happen over the course of a year. I could have went and played summer ball and have something happen there. Or that next season as a senior, something happen then. Everything that kind of fell into place, it all happened for a reason. I know a lot of people don't believe in that too much, but I'm here because things fell into place."
A patient Farmer returned to Georgia Tech for his senior year and was later drafted by the Tigers in the fifth round of the 2013 MLB draft, an offer he quickly accepted.
"It was great," Farmer said. "It just kind of solidified that when it came down to making a decision, that I chose the right one. That junior year, there just wasn't enough there for me. To back to school for one more year and hopefully perfect my game there was big. As a senior, there was no other choice. It was either give it up or continue to play. It just solidified that, here and there, I made the right choices along the way."
Farmer needed only one season in the Tigers' minor league system before he made his major league debut on Aug. 13, 2014, a game his pitched five innings of six-hit, four-run ball.
After spending the vast majority of his career as a starting pitcher, Farmer was transitioned full time to the Tigers' bullpen in 2018 after starting in 11 games in 2017. He made 65 appearances out of the bullpen last season and is just shy of 30 so far this season.
His transition from starter to bullpen specialist was one that he was comfortable, he said.
"It's more fast paced," Farmer said. "You have to be ready every day. It's a different mentality and there's a little bit more room to take a step back and relax and breathe as a starter. A a bullpen arm, if you go out there and get beat up, you're probably going to be out there the next night and it's your decision on whether or not you get beat up again or you come out and make the best of it."
Farmer said his success in 2018, especially the month of June, has him pitching the most comfortably that he has out of the bullpen in his six-year career.
"I think last year was when everything kind of came together," Farmer said. "I didn't have a great year, but I didn't have an awful year. I had some success out of the bullpen. Last year was the year that I got the most comfortable with it and having a little bit of success was what drove me to be there again this year."
From his days back at Rockdale County, where he still holds the Bulldogs' single game strikout record with 22, having a successful career in the big league's was one he could only dream about back then.
"I hoped I would happen, but I never really imagined that I would be going on x years in the big leagues," Farmer said. "It's something that you always dream out, but it's a different story when you get to live it for so long. Hopefully my career continues to go for years to come."
Looking back, Farmer said staying locked into his craft and not taking time off to do other things was what. helped him to where he's at now.
"There were some days, especially during the summer where my friends were going off to some beach here or there on vacation and I'd be home playing baseball," Farmer said. It paid off in the end. Time passes by quickly, that's for sure. It's kind of cool to know that I've been in the MLB for this long. It doesn't feel like that long, though. It feels like it's gone by really quick."
Hoping to have a long career, Farmer said he almost always takes time out of the day to live in the moment and appreciate where he's at today.
"I try to do it every day," Farmer said. "It's something that you have to do. You have to live it up while it's still present because it's not going to last forever."