Quick Q&A with former Orioles reliever T.J. McFarland

T.J. McFarland allowed one earned run in 6 2/3 spring training innings with the Dodgers, couldn’t make the club and had the green light to find another team. He “peeked over the fence,” as he put it yesterday, and found a match.

McFarland, 34, is in town with the Athletics. He retired the only batter he faced Friday night in his 15th appearance, which led the American League and tied for most in the majors.

So much has changed since the Orioles selected McFarland in the 2012 Rule 5 draft. They made the playoffs the season before his arrival and twice more before his release in February 2017. He’s bounced around from the Diamondbacks organization to the Athletics, Nationals, Cardinals, Mets, Orioles, Dodgers and Athletics again after they purchased his contract in March.

The Orioles signed McFarland on July 22 and he posted a 1.80 ERA and 1.100 WHIP in 21 games with Triple-A Norfolk. He didn’t get promoted but was the winning pitcher in the Triple-A championship game.

The champagne was just as cold.

Former Orioles infielder/outfielder Tyler Nevin and farmhand Darell Hernaiz also came to Baltimore this weekend, but McFarland is the one who dates back to the old regime. The good old days before they became terrible and good again.

The lefty is one of only four players from the 2014 division winner who’s still active in the majors, joining Manny Machado, Kevin Gausman and … wait for it … Christian Walker, who appeared in six games.

I guess you just never know when the next opportunity is coming, right?

“I know. I remember talking to you last year about it, too. Spent a little time with Norfolk before the end of the year. I just felt so good, I felt healthy, I was pitching well, I changed a few things. It was just a matter, hopefully, that I got a chance. An opportunity came up and I ran with it.

“Oakland needed some lefty help in their ‘pen and I fit right in. It ended up being a good spot.”

Maybe you’ll do this after you retire, but do you reflect back on how the career has gone? It doesn’t seem that long ago that you were a Rule 5 pick.

“Yeah. When I look back at it when it’s all said and done, I think I’m definitely going to be a guy where somebody will be like, ‘McFarland? Oh, how long did he play for?’ And then you look it up and you’re like, ‘Holy crap, he actually made it pretty far.’

From the outside looking in, you don’t really see much. I’ve always been a middle reliever, got ground balls, never really was that swing-and-miss type of guy. Didn’t get sexy outs. But somehow I was able to just grind through more than a decade of seasons.”

Is it cool to be back here? I don’t know if you really know anybody anymore.

“There’s quite a bit of turnover. The only reason why I know guys is because I was with Norfolk last year. But it is nostalgic. I took the mound yesterday and it kind of brought all that stuff back, all the emotions. It was cool. I loved playing here. It was a really good time and we had really good teams. Went to the playoffs a couple times, and obviously that clubhouse was awesome. I definitely enjoyed my time here.”

Were you disappointed that you didn’t get called up with Norfolk?

Disappointed would be the wrong emotion. I obviously signed with them just because I knew they were really good and there was a chance, you know? But what are you going to do when you’ve got (Cionel) Pérez, you’ve got Danny (Coulombe), you’ve got all these lefties that were absolutely destroying it and they ended up making the playoffs.

So, disappointment? Not really. I was hopeful that there was a chance I could just at least squeeze in for a series or two, but they treated me well and I pitched really well toward the end of the year. We ended up winning the Triple-A playoffs, so that was another experience I never had before. I’m checking off all the boxes here toward the end of things I haven’t accomplished, so it was cool.”

And you got a champagne celebration, so there’s that.

“We did, we did. We celebrated quite a bit. I was obviously the much, much older guy celebrating, but it was fun. We had a good time.”

How impressed were you with the talent level down there?

“They obviously have a very good team and a lot of young talent. They keep calling guys up who are supposed to be the next phenom of the game. Obviously, (Jackson) Holliday just got sent back down but he’s going not be a stud. They did a really good job with building up their minor leagues down there. It’s just incredible.

“I think the Orioles will be a good team here for a little while.”

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