O's look beyond box score to evaluate McFarland

O's look beyond box score to evaluate McFarland

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter has said frequently that spring statistics are one of the game's "biggest foolers," and he reminded reporters again following Monday's 12-9 win that the organization is looking beyond the box score, particularly when it comes to starter T.J. McFarland.

"It's not just one outing with 30-mph wind blowing out," Showalter said of the pending decision on whether to keep McFarland, likely in a long relief spot. "It's the whole thing, but it's another piece of the little bit of the puzzle you're able to look at. You look at a lot more than just today, and then you have to look at how you do it. That's why [Rule 5 Draft picks] are hard to take. [It's] a little different with position players. We'd like to have him. We'll see. We feel as strong if not stronger than we did about him when we took him."

Making his first spring start, McFarland allowed four runs on eight hits with five strikeouts against the Red Sox and has been impressive after a rocky start to camp. The 23-year-old McFarland threw 65 pitches (43 strikes) in Monday's game -- which was televised by ESPN -- and faced a Boston lineup half-full of regulars.

"Results weren't really necessarily what I wanted to do, but in the game, I felt good," he said. "Had a real good changeup. Was around the zone, throwing strikes. Really going into the game that's all I was asking for was to get a good feel for all my pitches and throw strikes."

McFarland had faced only Brock Holt and Will Middlebrooks before and he pitched on an windy day, with the two teams launching numerous homers, including Christian Vazquez's two-run shot off McFarland.

"A good example is the backhand play he made. I've said before he's a baseball player who happens to be a pitcher," Showalter said of McFarland. "Most left-handed pitchers don't get off the mound and make that play. Their back is to the runner and they don't have a feel for the speed of the ball. It's not a double-play ball, backhand short-hop play, and he turns and makes the play. There are some things that some of our guys are challenged with, and he's not.

"He can impact the game with more than just pitching. Those are the things you evaluate that the wind doesn't tell you. You see that, you know that he gets the speed of the game, the possibilities of game situations that can develop when the ball is hit to him."

McFarland said he always gets some nerves before he pitches and he was able to calm himself down on Monday so it felt like any other outing. This was the eighth spring appearance for McFarland, who has a 4.70 ERA, which includes a stretch of eight scoreless innings entering Monday's game.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.