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An impressive but 'bittersweet' debut for McFarland

As a media scrum surrounded him in the Orioles clubhouse after he made his major league debut Saturday night, left-hander T.J. McFarland was told by a reporter that if he was nervous out on the mound, it didn’t show.

“Didn’t show it at all?” McFarland said. “I definitely was. I was able to work through it and calm myself down.”

He helped calm the Orioles down, too.

McFarland, a 23-year-old who was acquired this winter in the Rule 5 draft, made his debut in a difficult situation as the Orioles trailed the Minnesota Twins, 5-3, in the fourth inning.

Starter Chris Tillman had recorded two outs in the inning but had just allowed a second baserunner when Orioles manager Buck Showalter called in McFarland from the bullpen to face Twins first baseman and former American League MVP Justin Morneau. On McFarland’s first major-league pitch -- a 78-mph slider -- he got Morneau to fly to out to right field to end the inning.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget that at-bat,” he said.

McFarland would remain in the game for three more innings, allowing one hit and no runs as the Orioles tied the game at five runs apiece. He struck out five batters and walked none in 3 1/3 innings.

He gave props to catcher Matt Wieters, saying he didn’t shake Wieters off once and that “I don’t think I ever will.”

The Orioles lost the game, 6-5, after the Twins, aided by a Chris Davis fielding error, scored the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning. So admittedly, the impressive debut was bittersweet for McFarland.

Still, he said he won’t forget the rush of jogging in from the bullpen in front of an announced crowd of 40,704 at Camden Yards.

“It was an incredible feeling. Nothing beats it,” said McFarland, who had previously been with the Cleveland Indians organization. “The adrenaline, the excitement, I can’t even put it into words. It really is just the best feeling you could ever feel.”

McFarland pocketed the baseball he used for his first career strikeout -- he threw a slider past Trevor Plouffe on an 0-2 count -- and also got a dozen other authenticated baseballs to give to his family.

A starter for most of his career, McFarland is still getting used to working out of the bullpen. Obviously, he doesn’t know when his next appearance will be, but he feels pretty good about his first one.

“I’m just going to continue doing what I have been doing,” he said.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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