Looking ahead to the Pirates and back at McFarland

SARASOTA, Fla. - I've gotten out of bed the last two mornings, it's been dark and chilly, and I've felt as though I should be walking to the bus stop.

I need that hour back.

The Orioles should want their lives back. They're making a third trip to Bradenton, where they'll pretend that they haven't memorized the Pittsburgh Pirates' entire camp roster.

They'll get another look at reliever Erik Cordier, the poor soul who couldn't throw a strike against them Friday night, though he did inadvertently pick off a spectator in the eighth row behind first base.

Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, Luis Ayala and Adam Russell will pitch for the Orioles. Britton will try to improve on his outing against Team Spain, when he allowed three runs and four hits in three innings. Ayala will be making his first appearance in a Grapefruit League game after throwing a scoreless inning against Spain.

Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland threw two scoreless innings yesterday against the Pirates - yeah, those guys - continuing the improvement that began after a bullpen session with pitching coach Rick Adair.

"I'm more comfortable and I'm sure I look a little more comfortable than before," McFarland said. "He said a few minor things and it kind of clicked for me. And from then on, I kind of calmed down on the mound and have gotten back to where I was years prior."

Adair and manager Buck Showalter went easy on McFarland despite his struggles in the intrasquad game and early exhibition games. They respected the success he achieved in the minors and didn't see the need for a major overhaul. Instead, Adair tweaked McFarland's mechanics to literally put him in a better position to get hitters out.

"Just a little alignment adjustment," McFarland said. "I was getting a little across my body with my hips, so I just kind of realigned it and positioned it toward the plate a little more, and I'm able to throw a lot more strikes."

And exude a lot more confidence.

"Yeah, I mean definitely (yesterday) was a solid outing and I'm going to build off that," he said. "Confidence is key. I'm definitely going to have a little more confidence when I go out there again my next outing.

"It's tough, me being a Rule 5 and everything," McFarland said. "I'm trying to make the team, essentially, so for me to change something drastic in spring training is going to be kind of hard. That's why Rick was able to find something small to kind of get me back to where I need to be, and it worked. Something small, but it went a long way."

It's still an uphill climb for a Rule 5 pick to stick on a major league roster, but Adair has McFarland pointed in the right direction.

"The last three outings I think we've seen more of what we had hoped when we took him," Showalter said. "It's so tough when they first get over here and you see a couple things. I think a lot of that was, I don't want to sway emotional or mental, but he had some anxiety the first couple times and he had gotten away from a couple of things. Rick was trying not to do anything for a couple of outings and he had gotten to the point where you could tell he was out of whack and you can see now the sync and the command.

"He was pretty good. I'm glad we were patient."

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