McFarland, 23, was originally drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the fourth round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. The 6’3,” 220-lb hurler is fresh off a 2012 season that saw him earn a 16-8 record with a 4.02 ERA in 163 innings pitched between Double-A and Triple-A (according to MILB.com).
These are pretty respectable numbers.
But with thick competition in the Orioles’ starting rotation for the 2013 season, can this Illinois native make the bird’s 25-man roster?
Looking at the Orioles depth chart, competition in the starting rotation appears steep, though not deeply proven.
Starters Jason Hammel, Wei Yin-Chen and Miguel Gonzalez are joined by guys that have shifted between starter and reliever. To make the rotation, McFarland will have to handily outpitch guys like Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Steve Johnson, Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton.
McFarland will also have to overcome the fact the aforesaid men have already endured the ups-and-downs of being young big league pitchers. Now they smell blood and will be looking to solidify themselves in the starting rotation come opening day.
Yet again, it is not as if McFarland is facing competition like the Atlanta Braves all-star starting rotation of the 1990s. Still, McFarland has to prove both capable and consistent to earn a spot in the bird’s rotation.
If not, could McFarland make the Orioles 25-man roster through the bullpen?
This is entirely possible. Of course, this will be as equally challenging as cracking the rotation.
It will be tough because the Orioles have a unique makeup many other major league teams do not. As the birds proved during the 2012 postseason, the team can shift starters to the pen and keep on trucking.
Tillman, Matusz and Arrieta played significant roles during the run to the playoffs and in the postseason. Tommy Hunter, who was deployed to the pen after a disastrous stay in the rotation, also helped the club.
Blend this with an Orioles’ pen that already boasts Luis Ayala, Troy Patton, Pedro Strop, Darren O’Day and Jim Johnson, and McFarland may have a difficult time breaking camp with the club (Baltimore’s recent signing of veteran Daniel Schlereth does not help McFarland’s cause either).
Yet again the birds are not the type of team where a young pitcher looks up and down the roster with dismay. The Orioles are a young, up-and-coming ball club with a band of pitchers fighting for their big league lives.
For a guy like McFarland, an excellent performance in spring training may thrust this dark horse into black and orange for the 2013 season.
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