McFarland keeps putting up zeroes and remains in the hunt for a roster spot

SARASOTA, Fla. - When asked about his chances to make the Orioles' opening day roster as a Rule 5 pick earlier today, left-hander T.J. McFarland put it this way.

"I just know I've come here and thrown as well as I could," he said.

Simple and direct. The rest, he knows, is out of his hands. Soon the Orioles will have to decide if they can try and keep a Rule 5 pick for the second year in a row. Ryan Flaherty made it the distance last year, staying on the big league roster all season. Could McFarland pull that off? Will he even make it to the first series against Tampa Bay as an Oriole?

The Orioles took the 23-year-old in the Rule 5 at the Winter Meetings in December. He went 16-8 in the Cleveland organization last season. The Indians had drafted him in the fourth round out of an Illinois high school in 2007.

McFarland threw 163 innings in 2012, 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.

After giving up one run in each of his first four outings, he has now put together three straight scoreless appearances, the most recent coming in the final three innings yesterday against Toronto at Ed Smith Stadium.

In those three games, McFarland has pitched eight innings of three-hit ball with no walks and four strikeouts. Overall, he has a 3.09 spring ERA over 11 2/3 innings.

"I have no regrets whatsoever in terms of how I've thrown. That is one thing I can take away from this experience," he said.

"For me it's always been, even from my first year in the minor leagues, about throwing strikes. If I am around the zone, hitters are swinging and with my sinker I can get quick outs, ground-ball outs and that's my game. Once my command was back and I started to throw more strikes, I got better.

"There are seven or eight guys up for maybe one or two positions that are actually available, guys that have been in the big leagues already, and I am obviously the lowest one on the totem pole in that aspect. I have no major league experience. Just to be even considered to be among that type of talent is definitely an honor. I hope for the best, but whatever happens happens."

McFarland says he has been dealing well with being a Rule 5 pick, which must be a pretty unusual spot for any player.

"It really hasn't (weighed on me)," he said. "I do well with pressure, the little pressure that I did feel because I am a Rule 5 and there is a little pressure there. I've been able to deal with it. This organization is great and has made me feel really comfortable here. The players as well. It's been great."

But these have to be nervous days for McFarland right now. He doesn't know if he will be in the O's organization, sent back to Cleveland or possibly claimed by someone else between now and opening day. That is some major uncertainty there for him right now.

"The only way to deal with it is not to deal with it, not to think about it," he said. "You have to kind of put it in the back of your mind and don't let it be a factor at all."

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