BRADENTON, Fla. — The comeback Danny Farquhar believed all along would happen, even when plenty around him weren’t nearly as sure, isn’t official yet.
It won’t be, he is the first to acknowledge, until he appears in a regular-season game.
But Saturday afternoon was pretty darn close.
And without question it was significant, even if the results were less than ideal.
Farquhar, who suffered a life-threatening brain hemorrhage in the dugout during a relief outing for the White Sox last April 20, made his spring training debut Saturday against the Pirates at LECOM Park (previously McKechnie Field).
The 5-9 righthander, whom the Yankees signed to a minor-league deal Jan. 21, had little command — and what he did command was hit hard. He allowed five runs, three hits and two walks, retiring one of six batters faced.
Still, after Aaron Boone removed Farquhar from the game, the righthander’s teammates all but jumped from their seats to encourage him as he descended into the dugout.
“I’ve never been high-fived so much giving up five runs in my career,” he said.
“We all know his story,” said Austin Romine, who started at catcher Saturday. “That’s some crazy stuff going on. Making sure you’re OK off the field and as a human being, then to be able to fight your way back and to get back in a big-league game, I can only imagine what he’s gone through and what his family’s gone through. It’s a tribute to his work ethic and his character. I’ve never met a more happy guy in my life to be playing baseball.”
Indeed, as usual, the smile never left Farquhar’s face as he spoke with reporters.
When Boone went to the mound to replace Farquhar with lefty Stephen Tarpley, the manager told him: “Onward and upward. Another step along the way.’’
He added to reporters, “Obviously not his best, but pretty cool and remarkable that he’s able to keep getting to this point.”
On this day, results were hardly relevant, and they won’t be for at least a little while longer.
Farquhar — whom the Yankees claimed off waivers in 2012 and assigned to Double-A Trenton but shipped to the Mariners about a month later as part of a package for Ichiro Suzuki — won’t make the 25-man roster out of camp, but with a good performance at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he could put himself in position to be an option when the inevitable bullpen opening occurs.
But that’s for down the line. Saturday was about a player whose life outside the lines held plenty of questions when he was released from the hospital last May 7.
That he took the mound was a victory, and so Farquhar had a sizable cheering section of 13, which included his wife, Lexie, and three children — Madison 7, Landon, 3, and Liam, 1.
“I loved having my family there. It means the world to have them there and then to see them after,” he said. “They came to see me; just to see how my wife was feeling and how my kids loved me. They didn’t care how good or bad I did today. It brings life into perspective.”
Boone said he was “a little more emotional” than he thought he’d be while watching Farquhar. “More nervous, more anxious, all those things wanting him to do so well,” he said. “Even though it didn’t go great, I think he really appreciated how special it was for him to be back out on that mound.”
As for his stuff, opposing team scouts said the reliever is a ways away.
“Really struggled with his release point,” one said. “He threw a couple of good sliders, just couldn’t repeat [his delivery]. Yanked too many pitches. Good for him getting back out there, but he’s not close [to big league-ready].”
Which for now is just fine.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Farquhar said of when he’ll focus on results. “You could take it like with golf. When I first started playing golf, I didn’t care [about his score], I was just happy to be out on the course. And then I started playing better and better . . . I don’t know. I don’t know when results will [matter]. Obviously, I want to pitch good, but I was just happy to be out there more than anything today.”