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McFarland readies for audition in first spring start

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Rule 5 Draft pick T.J. McFarland will make his first spring start Monday against the Boston Red Sox and joked with reporters -- who reminded him that the game is televised nationally on ESPN -- it should be totally pressure-free.

"I'm extremely excited to get a start under my belt," said McFarland, who is trying to stick with the organization as either a starter or reliever. "It's funny because I was just kind of getting used to coming out of the 'pen, and now I'm going to start, but there is no difference to me in my mind. I'm just going to go out and do exactly what I did the previous outings."

McFarland has turned it around this spring, throwing eight scoreless innings in his past three outings after making a mechanical adjustment to face more toward the plate. His confidence has gone up, as well.

"It's a big difference," McFarland said. "Confidence plays a huge part in this game, for sure, and with me, I know if I have a good outing, I can build off that, and my confidence exponentially raises up. And that's huge for me in terms of just being around the strike zone and throwing strikes and playing into what I want to do to hitters."

The Orioles like McFarland and want to keep him, but it could be a numbers crunch. Right now, the Orioles don't have room in the bullpen for three lefties. Troy Patton has a spot, and Brian Matusz could be a second left-hander if he doesn't win the fifth rotation spot, which Jake Arrieta is the frontrunner for.

How could McFarland fit in?

If the Orioles move one of their other relievers in a trade, they could keep the 23-year-old and have him serve as the long man. McFarland could also find a spot in the event of injury, and if Chris Tillman suffers a setback in his recovery from abdominal soreness, the Orioles could backdate his disabled list date and make room for McFarland.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli.
Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Jair Jurrjens, T.J. McFarland, Brian Matusz, Julio Rodriguez, Ronnie Welty