NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Orioles selected lefty pitcher T.J. McFarland with the 23rd pick in this morning's Rule 5 draft. McFarland went a combined 16-8 with a 4.03 ERA last season at two levels in the Cleveland Indians' farm system.
"He's a 23-year-old left-handed pitcher that pitched last year for Cleveland at Double-A and Triple-A," Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. "He has a knack for winning games, he won eight games at both stops. He won 16 games on the year and he was a high draft pick out of high school (fourth round in 2007) and he has made steady progress each year of his development, which we really like.
"He pitched very well the last month of the season and he pitched a fine game against our Norfolk team where he beat our ballclub down there. He's got a good sinker, he keeps the ball, he's got a good changeup. His velocity is good. It was very strong in 2011 and it was good this past season. He throws strikes in the bottom of the strike zone and we like him as a qualified major leaguer."
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.
"If you look at his record, over the course of his career, where he's won 50 games and lost 38, which is very rare to find a young pitcher with that type of winning record," Duquette said. "So we know he has a knack for winning games. Hopefully that will translate to the major leagues.
"We had targeted a couple of left-handed pitchers in the draft and we wanted to get another lefty in our system and this was a cost-effective way to accomplish that."
The Orioles saw McFarland pitch well against them this year. On Aug. 5, he pitched eight shutout innings of three-hit ball with five strikeouts for Columbus against Norfolk. In three starts this season for Double-A Akron, he went 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA against the Bowie Baysox.
McFarland is 48-31 with a 3.83 ERA in 116 games, 107 starts in five minor league seasons in the Cleveland system.
Will he remain a starter with the O's and have a chance to crack the already crowded O's rotation?
"We'll decide that in spring training, but it looks to me likes he's a qualified major league starter in the future," Duquette said.
Duquette was asked if it will be harder for McFarland to make the 2013 Orioles as Rule 5 pick. Ryan Flaherty did that last year, staying with the club all season.
"It depends on how good the Rule 5 pick is of course, right? If they're good and they are qualified for the big leagues, I'm sure they'll find a spot in the big leagues," Duquette said. "This kid has the experience and the stuff and the track record to be a major league pitcher."