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

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.

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Irvin shines again with latest gem in 7-0 win (updated)

Irvin pitching orange

The Orioles are close to testing the age-old baseball theory that teams never can have too much pitching.

Cole Irvin must wonder how he plays into the experiment.

Kyle Bradish is leaving his injury rehab assignment and starting for the Orioles next week. John Means makes his final rehab appearance on Sunday, which sets up his return.

The process of elimination could make Irvin vulnerable to a bullpen shift, but the timing would be peculiar given his recent dominance. A whole new meaning to leaving on a high note.

Irvin stated his case again today at high volume to be left alone. After tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings last weekend in Kansas City, he shut out the Athletics for seven in a 7-0 victory before an announced crowd of 28,364 at chilly and damp Camden Yards.

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Kyle Bradish set to join Orioles rotation

Bradish pitching postseason

Kyle Bradish is coming back to the Orioles, and a little faster than anticipated.

Manager Brandon Hyde said Bradish is returning to the major league rotation. The right-hander’s injury rehab assignment will end early.

Bradish started last night for Triple-A Norfolk and held Gwinnett to one run in five innings, with one walk and six strikeouts. He’s stretched out to 77 pitches.

The assignment technically began on April 16 with three scoreless innings at Double-A Bowie, and the 30-day period would have carried Bradish into the middle of May. However, he threw a live batting practice session on April 11 at High-A Aberdeen, which sped up the process to get him ready.

“He threw the ball really well last night and our medical team talked to him this morning,” Hyde said. “Our pitching guys, as well. He feels great. We’re just looking right now kind of when to slot him in, but he’s going to be with us soon.”

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Orioles trying to follow path of 1966 champions

Robinson, Powell, Palmer first pitch

The Orioles scored twice last night in the opening game of another homestand, a paltry output by their standards but also exhibiting two ways they can go about their offensive business.

They collected three singles in the third inning, the last two with two outs, keeping a rally alive and passing the bat to the next guy.

Cedric Mullins launched a changeup onto the flag court in right field in the fourth to break a tie. They also can flex their muscle.

This is a special group, with numbers early on that haven’t been posted here in a long time.

The game began with the Orioles leading the American League with a .260 average, .459 slugging percentage and .780 OPS. The last time they finished a season first in all three categories was also the first time they were crowned champions.

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Orioles can't hold late lead and lose 3-2 in 10 innings (updated)

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Corbin Burnes finished the first inning, shook his head in frustration - at least partly with the plate umpire’s strike zone but more at himself - and walked to the dugout. Catcher Adley Rutschman met him along the first base line and could have been invisible.

On a night that the Orioles optioned top prospect Jackson Holliday, the veteran right-hander needed his own reset before returning to the mound. Shea Langeliers homered on a first-pitch cutter with two outs, the fifth run surrendered by Burnes in the first inning this season. But Burnes regained control of his start and did his usual ace-like work. His troubles seemed to disappear.

Unfortunately for the Orioles, so did their slim lead. And that was the most frustrating part.

Closer Craig Kimbrel, trying for a 425th career save that would have tied him with Kenley Jansen for 5th place on the all-time list, failed to retire any of the five batters faced in the ninth, the only out coming on a play at the plate. He left with the bases loaded and the score knotted and Keegan Akin prevented the go-ahead run from crossing, but the Athletics won in 10 innings 3-2 before an announced crowd of 22,965 at chilly Camden Yards.

Jacob Webb let the go-ahead run score after a 5-2-5-3 fielder's choice removed the automatic runner. Brent Rooker doubled to left field to give Oakland the lead.

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Elias on Holliday's "little hiccup" and how baseball's top prospect can benefit from it

Jackson-Holliday-Spring-training-1

Jackson Holliday met with Orioles officials earlier today and was sent back to Triple-A Norfolk with a specific agenda. Areas of improvement were detailed. They just weren’t shared with everyone.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias met with the media today for about 20 minutes and explained the club’s decision to option Holliday, baseball’s No. 1 prospect who went 2-for-34 with one RBI, two walks, 18 strikeouts and five runs scored in 10 games.

The inability to get hot at the plate was a prime factor, of course. No complaints about his defense at second base, a relatively new position. The Orioles will be facing another wave of left-handed starters, which would have put Holliday on the bench. And his struggles were harder for a contending team to overlook than perhaps the 110-loss group from the rebuilding days.

There isn’t a firm timeline for Holliday’s return, but he apparently won’t be rushed back to the majors at the first whiff of success.

“I want to emphasize that this is a kid that’s doing extremely well and is at the very infancy of his major league career,” Elias said. “I don’t know if anyone else from his age group or draft class, high school hitters, are even out of A-ball levels yet. I want to stress that he’s doing very, very well and way ahead of the curve. And this was a decision out of camp that was very borderline at the time. Got a lot of opinions. We ended up sending him down and he hit really, really well in Triple-A for a couple of series, about two weeks, and so we decided to call him up and see how the translation to the major leagues would go on a short-term basis, and what we have seen here and had seen led me to the evaluation and the opinion that he would benefit from going back and adjusting there rather than doing it here in real time.

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Orioles lineup vs. Athletics in series opener at Camden Yards

ramon urias dugout whites

Ramón Urías is starting at third base tonight with Jordan Westburg at second following the Orioles’ decision to option Jackson Holliday to Triple-A Norfolk.

Urías is batting ninth and Westburg is slotted seventh. Colton Cowser is in left field and batting eighth.

Ryan O’Hearn is the designated hitter.

Corbin Burnes is 3-0 with a 2.76 ERA and 0.920 WHIP in five starts. He’s never faced the Athletics.

Right-handed and left-handed hitters have registered a .208 average against Burnes in his career. Right-handers have a .612 OPS and left-handers have a .602 OPS.

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Orioles option Jackson Holliday to Triple-A Norfolk

Jackson Holliday

Jackson Holliday is headed back to the minors.

The Orioles announced today that they’ve optioned Holliday to Triple-A Norfolk and selected the contract of outfielder Ryan McKenna.

Holliday made his highly anticipated major league debut on April 10 in Boston, but he couldn’t get onto a roll offensively. He went 2-for-34 with one RBI, two walks and 18 strikeouts in 10 games.

The hitless streak reached 13 at-bats before his single in the seventh inning on April 14 against the Brewers at Camden Yards. Holliday’s other hit came Wednesday afternoon in Anaheim with another single.

Baseball’s top prospect is getting a reset with Norfolk. The Orioles can explain later the timing of the move and potentially how long it could last.

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Orioles are back in action and giving us more to think about

Gunnar Henderson

The Orioles are refreshed after yesterday’s break, which the bullpen needed, and ready to host the Athletics for three games and dive back into division competition with four against the Yankees.

Eight of nine series will be outside the American League East before the Yankees come to town.

It could have something or nothing to do with the 16-8 record and eight wins in the last 10 games. This is a very good team, which falls way short of a hot take. Just stating the facts.

The Orioles will be in the playoffs. The only question is whether they’re still active in November. I’m not making any plans until the second week of the month.

On paper at least, they can only get better with injured pitchers returning, Jackson Holliday eventually being Jackson Holliday, other prospects ready for promotion, and one or more trades likely at the deadline.

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McKenna happy for Kjerstad and hoping to rejoin him in majors

Ryan Mckenna

The coincidence didn’t hit Ryan McKenna right away. He was in a brightly lit airport in Norfolk but also in the dark.

McKenna had no clue that Austin Hays strained a calf muscle and the Orioles needed an outfielder to replace him. He missed the news, which perhaps would have taken his mind in a direction that raised hopes for a return to the majors.

Instead, McKenna stood next to Heston Kjerstad when one of baseball’s top prospects received a phone call from Tides manager Buck Britton. Get back on a plane and head to Anaheim. The Orioles are calling you up.

“To be honest, I didn’t see the injury to Hays, so I wasn’t like fully aware of what was going on,” McKenna said this week.

“I love Heston, man. He’s such a good player. He’s going to be a good major leaguer for a long time, so I was super happy for him. He’s probably one of the guys that I’m closest to in the minor leagues. It was cool. He’s a solid player. Offensively, he outshines this league pretty dramatically.”

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Mountcastle returns to Orioles lineup, plus notes (updated)

mountcastle homers in texas

With the Angels starting left-hander Tyler Anderson in today’s rubber match in Anaheim, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde posted a lineup that doesn’t included Heston Kjerstad or Jackson Holliday.

Kjerstad went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in last night’s 7-4 loss. Holliday was 1-for-4 with a run scored and two strikeouts.

Jorge Mateo is playing second base. Adley Rutschman is the designated hitter with James McCann behind the plate.

Rutschman was 3-for-5 last night and raised his average to .323 with a .785 OPS.

Ryan Mountcastle is starting at first base after delivering a pinch-hit single last night. He replaced Ryan O’Hearn, who had a two-run double and walked twice.

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Because You Asked - Staying Alive

Jordan Westburg

My mailbag didn’t make it to Anaheim. No direct flights. Refused to fly into LAX.

What am I supposed to do?

I emptied it at home. Let’s get to it, the latest sequel to the beloved 2008 original.

Same rules apply, which is very few. Closer to none. I like editing questions about as much as I like the middle seat on a Southwest flight. Your questions are crystal clear. I don’t need to enhance the clarity. Your style is fine, except for those skinny slacks that don’t go past the top of your ankles.

Also, my mailbag sticks your mailbag with the bar tab, and yours only had water.

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Kjerstad in right field tonight in Orioles' homegrown-heavy lineup

Kjerstad running gray

Heston Kjerstad will play his first major league game tonight since Oct. 1, starting in right field as the Orioles attempt to claim another series.

Kjerstad is batting eighth, nestled between third baseman Jordan Westburg and second baseman Jackson Holliday in a lineup featuring seven players that the Orioles drafted. An eighth, Grayson Rodriguez, is on the mound against the Angels.

A ninth, cleanup hitter Anthony Santander, was selected in the 2016 Rule 5 draft. Santander is the designated hitter tonight.

Ryan O’Hearn is playing first base with Ryan Mountcastle on the bench. Mountcastle didn’t play last night due to a sore left knee.

Colton Cowser remains in left field and has homered in back-to-back games.

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Orioles recall Kjerstad, notes on tonight's game

Heston-Kjerstad-spring-training-dugout

The Orioles won again last night and are in first place in the American League East with a 15-7 record. Their 126 runs scored and .780 OPS lead the American League. Their 35 homers lead the majors.

And now, the mid-market rich get richer.

Outfielder Heston Kjerstad was recalled today from Triple-A Norfolk, bringing him back to the majors for the first time since the Division Series. Catcher David Bañuelos, activated yesterday from the taxi squad, was optioned to the Tides.

Kjerstad is the actual replacement for outfielder Austin Hays, who went on the 10-day injured list yesterday with a left calf strain retroactive to Sunday. He’s battering Triple-A pitching, hitting .349/.431/.744 with four doubles, 10 home runs and 30 RBIs in 21 games. He’s also drawn 12 walks.

The first promotion came on Sept. 14, with the Orioles selecting Kjerstad’s contract. He went 7-for-30 with a double and two home runs.

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A little more on Hays' injury

Austin Hays

Austin Hays avoided the injured list for the past two seasons, a huge turn in his career after the litany of setbacks dating back to the minors. Much of it bad luck, like the sprained thumb in 2019 on a stolen base attempt after the Orioles optioned him from camp. A head-first slide that he’s done countless times, except he hit the bag wrong.

Hays had slashed .351/.385/.892 in 12 exhibition games, with three doubles, a triple, five home runs and 13 RBIs. But the Orioles wanted to continue his development in Triple-A following his ankle surgery the previous year and the sore shoulder that had interrupted his spring training.  

The toughness was never questioned. Hays played through a lot of pain. And he reached 500 career games while the Orioles were in Pittsburgh.

“He’s tried to be healthy all throughout the year,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “He’s done that the last couple of years as best as he possibly could.”

That’s why yesterday’s news seemed so cruel.

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Hays placed on IL with calf strain (updated)

Austin Hays running gray

The calf soreness that removed Austin Hays from Saturday night’s game in Kansas City has landed him on the 10-day injured list.

Hays was diagnosed with a left calf strain, with the IL move retroactive to yesterday. He’s 5-for-45 with two RBIs.

The at-bats have improved of late, with a hit in each of his last two games and some loud outs.

Manager Brandon Hyde kept Hays out of yesterday's lineup. Asked later about Hays' status, Hyde said, "We're going to kind of see how he is tomorrow."

Hays hasn't caught a break since reporting to camp. He had a stomach virus in spring training and was under the weather in Pittsburgh.

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Westburg honored, Hays stays out of lineup and other notes

Westburg in the cage

Orioles infielder Jordan Westburg was named the American League’s Player of the Week after batting .478 (11-for-23) with a .913 slugging percentage, two doubles, a triple, two home runs, eight RBIs, a walk, five runs scored and a stolen base in six games.

Westburg led the majors in batting average and OPS (1.413), tied for the lead in total bases (21) and ranked second in slugging. He tied for the AL lead in RBIs and tied for third in on-base percentage (.500) and hits (11).

The Orioles are on an award roll with Colton Cowser winning it last week.

This is only the third time that the team’s had back-to-back recipients. Eddie Murray won it on Sept. 13-20, 1981. Don Baylor was honored on Aug. 10, 1975, followed by co-winners Jim Palmer and Ken Singleton on the 17th.

Westburg is batting .457 (16-for-35) during a nine-game hitting streak. He’s batting third tonight in Anaheim, where the Orioles begin a three-game series.

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Anthony Sanders on Orioles outfielders: "A real talented group that makes my job a little bit easier"

Anthony Santander

KANSAS CITY – The late innings of Saturday night’s game backed the opinions of Orioles first base coach Anthony Sanders.

Working with the outfielders as the team’s instructor brings a broader appreciation of the group’s abilities.

A once-comfortable lead was slipping away when Colton Cowser, a late replacement in left field with Austin Hays experiencing some cramping in his calf muscle that could put him on the injured list today, threw out Kyle Isbel trying to advance to third base in the seventh inning on Maikel Garcia’s run-scoring single.

The Orioles led 9-7 in the bottom of the ninth and closer Craig Kimbrel retired the Royals in order, but after right fielder Anthony Santander charged Bobby Witt Jr.’s shallow fly ball and made a sensational diving catch.

Preventing the leadoff hitter from reaching was one of the biggest moments in the game.

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Irvin and bullpen combine on shutout, Cowser has more fountain fun (updated)

Colton Cowser home run trot

KANSAS CITY – Colton Cowser might chug a fountain drink later today with his postgame meal. Maybe crank up an old Fountains of Wayne tune. He’s got a theme going and should play it out before the team arrives in Anaheim later tonight.

Less than 16 hours after tossing a baseball over his head and into the fountain in left field, forgetting that closer Craig Kimbrel would want to keep it, Cowser launched a four-seamer from Royals starter Seth Lugo into the waterfall in right-center.

A stadium worker retrieved that one, as well, though it didn’t represent any sort of milestone. More like Cowser washing down a delicious irony.

"Did it get there?" Cowser asked. "I still feel terrible about what happened yesterday. I've apologized to Craig so much. But yeah, it's kind of funny, I guess. I don't think it's crazy funny, but put a good swing on it, so pretty proud of myself there."

Jordan Westburg followed Cowser’s third-inning blast with a home run to left that also would have splashed down if not for a fan in the top row of bleachers deflecting it with his hand. Not everyone was on board.

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Kimbrel soaking in 422nd save and drying souvenir baseball that came with it

Craig Kimbrel James McCann

KANSAS CITY – The overflow locker next to Craig Kimbrel held the usual items this morning – a suitcase, a couple of backpacks and some hoodies on hangers. Sitting on the top shelf, however, was a rarity. Maybe a first for the 15-year veteran.

A plastic container filled with uncooked rice.

This isn’t part of a special diet. The grains covered the baseball from last night’s 422nd career save that tied Kimbrel with Billy Wagner for seventh place on the all-time list.

Left fielder Colton Cowser caught a fly ball to seal a 9-7 win and chucked it over his shoulder and into the iconic fountain at Kauffman Stadium. Or, “yeeted it,” as he sheepishly told the media afterward.

Cowser figured out his mistake almost immediately and stadium workers retrieved the soaked baseball. There were two at the bottom. The fresher one was identified as belonging to Kimbrel.

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