It was a few minutes after 9 a.m. Central time last Thursday and T.J. McFarland was by his computer to see if his name would be called in the Rule 5 draft.
But before he could hear his name called, a former teammate in the Cleveland organization (no doubt one with a very fast Internet connection) reached out to him.
“I actually got a text message from a former teammate (Donnie Webb, now with Miami) and that is how I found out I was drafted (by the Orioles). Guess the Internet wasn’t up to date with my computer,” McFarland said. “Then, after that, I was getting calls for the next three hours or so from my agent, people from Baltimore and some people with Cleveland. Ever since then, it has been an exciting time.”
Now, like Ryan Flaherty last season, he’ll try to stay on the Orioles’ roster the entire 2013 season unless he gets offered back to Cleveland at some point.
In February, he’ll head to a major league spring training camp for the first time. McFarland lives near Chicago in Orland Park, Ill., where he throws during the cold winters at Bo Jackson’s indoor sports dome.
McFarland talked to Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette last week and Duquette mentioned to him an Aug. 5 game where McFarland pitched against the Orioles’ Triple-A Norfolk team and shut them out for eight innings.
“He just congratulated me and he was talking to me about one game where they saw me last year when I did pretty well against Norfolk. I guess from there, that helped them learn what kind of talent I was capable of,” McFarland said.
“I’ve been a starter (my whole career). Typically, I stay around the 89 to 92 region (with my fastball), throwing sinkerballs. I’m more of a pitch-to-contact guy to try and get those groundball outs, get quick outs, those three-pitch type outs to get deep into games. I threw over 160 innings last year. I throw a sinker, slider and change-up and try to work in and out with hitters, and my command is usually pretty decent.”
The 23-year-old McFarland hasn’t been told if the Orioles will use him as a starter or reliever.
“I just know this opportunity came and I’ll try to fit into any role they present. I’m fine with being a starter. I’m fine with being a reliever,” he said.
A lefty, McFarland threw 163 innings last season, allowing 173 hits with 45 walks and 96 strikeouts. At Double-A, he went 8-2 with a 2.69 ERA in 10 starts and at Triple-A, he was 8-6 with a 4.82 ERA over 17 starts.
He doesn’t know anyone yet in the Orioles’ organization, but he does know of several players.
“I think I’ve played against an Orioles affiliate my whole career. At Low-A, High-A, Double-A and Triple-A, every level, there has been an O’s affiliate,” he said. “I don’t necessarily know the players personally but I’ve kind of been playing against the same group of guys for four years now, so in that sense I’m familiar with them.
“It is a win-win for me (being a Rule 5 pick). There are only positive things that can come out of this. I’ll work my hardest so the Orioles can really evaluate me in spring. But if I did go back to Cleveland, I’m at least where I was before and maybe a little ahead with the exposure of the Rule 5 draft.”