Lost in the Orioles’ 3-0 shutout loss to the Yankees Sunday night at Yankee Stadium was the relief performance of Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter has said it regularly, that you can’t hide a reliever in the AL East. Yet, McFarland hadn’t pitched in eight days since making his major league debut against the Twins on two Saturday’s ago.
On Sunday night, McFarland entered a three-run game in the seventh inning and allowed just one hit over two scoreless innings, walking one and striking out three – including the final two batters he faced in the eighth, Kevin Youkilis and Ben Francisco.
The Orioles obviously think highly of McFarland. They found a way to make a spot for him on the Opening Day roster, and his promise forced the Orioles to trade veteran right-handed reliever Luis Ayala last week.
Over two major league outings, McFarland has thrown 5 1/3 scoreless relief innings, allowing just two hits while striking out eight and walking on.
“He pitched well again,” Showalter said. “I think he threw three strikes that were called balls too, so that’s even more impressive. He worked his way through it. He’s had two good outings. We feel comfortable pitching him. It’s just the situation hasn’t been there every night out and also with some of the options we have.”
Showalter often mentions that McFarland, 23, is just one year older than Orioles pitching prospect Kevin Gausman, so he is learning on the fly. But from hearing Showalter talk about McFarland, it sounds like McFarland – who is pitching in a long relief role now – could have an expanded role as the season progresses. Showalter said the team makes sure he throws often to stay ready for any situation.
“We throw him down in the bullpen, keep the ball in his hand,” Showalter said. “There will come a time this season, I hope, that we’re not always saving him for long relief. …. He’ll get plenty of chances. You can’t carry a guy in the American League East who you’re not going to pitch. We’re not trying to hide him from pitching, but he serves a very important role here.”