SOUTH BEND — As a baseball amateur, James Farris was used to pitching at the beginning of games.
Farris hurled 7⅔ innings for a no decision in helping Arizona beat South Carolina in the 2012 College World Series championship game.
His game day superstitions at the U of A, where he was the Friday starter in Pac-12 Conference games, included wearing the same undershirt for each game and taking the same route to the mound each inning.
Now a second-year professional, he is getting used to the idea of going to the mound a little later — even closing out contests.
The 6-foot-2 right-hander now comes out of the bullpen for the Class A South Bend Cubs.
Farris (@farris_james on Twitter) was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the ninth round of the 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft (after being chosen but not signing with the Houston Astros in the 2013 draft).
As a South Bend Cubs reliever, Farris came through games played May 20 with a 2-1 record and four of the team’s 10 saves. He had 28 strikeouts and six walks in 17⅖ innings.
“The bullpen is new to me, but I actually like it a lot,” Farris said. “I’m digging it.”
Generally, starters need to have command of multiple pitches — be it fastball, curve or change-up — to be effective. Relievers seeing hitters only once — maybe twice — can often get by on one pitch.
“That’s kind of nice,” Farris said. “You get to throw max level.”
The routine of a starter is usually set by the rotation. That’s not the life of a reliever.
“As a starter, you know when you’re going to work out, when you’re going to run, when you’re going to pitch. As a reliever, you’ve just got to be ready. The mentality is that you’re going to throw every day.”
Each day South Bend relievers go through a pre-game arm conditioning program that consists of throwing and some TheraBand work.
“You’ve got to be real careful,” Farris said. “You’ve got to keep your traps relaxed and things like that. Also, you’ve got to do it every day. If you don’t do it every day, you’re going to feel it.”
Band work is followed by a run — either foul poles or a jog around the concourse or around city streets.
If Farris does not pitch in a game for two days, he will have a short bullpen “side session.”
“Otherwise, we’ve got to save our bullets for the game,” Farris said.