BRADENTON, Fla. - Already trying to calm his nerves before his first spring training start, left-hander T.J. McFarland didn’t need to know that Monday’s game would air on ESPN.
“Well, thanks for reminding me,” he quipped. “No pressure there.”
McFarland’s first seven appearances had come in relief, but the Orioles needed a starter to replace Zach Britton, who was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk yesterday, and manager Buck Showalter wanted to give the Rule 5 pick an opportunity.
“It’s funny because I was just kind of getting used to coming out of the ‘pen and now I’m going to start, but there is no difference to me in my mind,” he said. “I’m just going to go out and do exactly what I did the previous outings.
“I’m extremely excited to get a start under my belt.”
The Orioles are extremely happy with the way McFarland is throwing the ball these days. He hasn’t allowed a run or issued a walk in his last three appearances spanning eight innings. He’s given up three hits and struck out four.
He got knocked around in the first intrasquad game and allowed runs in his first four Grapefruit League appearances before making an adjustment in his delivery during a bullpen session with pitching coach Rick Adair.
“It’s a big difference,” said McFarland, who will attempt to stick on the Orioles’ roster, most likely in a relief role. “Confidence plays a huge part in this game, for sure, and with me, I know if I have a good outing, I can build off that and my confidence exponentially raises up. And that’s huge for me in terms of just being around the strike zone and throwing strikes and playing into what I want to do to hitters.”
McFarland will try to keep the Red Sox’s hitters off the bases Monday in Sarasota, in full view of the ESPN audience.
“That’s great,” he said. “I’m excited because I think my family will be able to watch it, too.”