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04/06/2013 11:51 PM ET

Tillman's return leaves O's with short bench

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles reinstated starter Chris Tillman from the disabled list and optioned infielder Yamaico Navarro to Triple-A Norfolk to clear a roster spot prior to Tillman's start Saturday against the Twins.

The move gives the Orioles a three-man bench with Taylor Teagarden, Alexi Casilla and Steve Pearce.

"We're going to err on the side of carrying the arms, especially protecting the bullpen until guys kind of find their step as starters," said manager Buck Showalter. "Rick [Adair] and I spent a lot of time, mostly leaning with what Rick thinks, about protecting some of our guys' innings, because we want to make sure we've got all of our bullets as we go through the season. I'm sure we'll go back to a four-man bench at some point."

Showalter said the team would have kept the roster constructed as such even if they didn't have pitcher T.J. McFarland, one of three left-handers in Baltimore's bullpen who must stay on the roster or the Orioles lose him due to his Rule 5 Draft status.

Tillman was slowed earlier this spring with an abdominal injury and last pitched on March 29 against the State College of Florida. Because it wasn't an official Grapefruit League game, the Orioles were able to backdate his DL stay to have him eligible for Saturday's start.

Navarro, 25, was recalled from Norfolk on Friday, but did not play. He was acquired from Pittsburgh in November after hitting .279/.366/.491 in 66 games with Triple-A Indianapolis last season and going 8-for-50 with the Pirates.

McFarland impresses in big league debut

BALTIMORE -- Rule 5 Draft pick T.J. McFarland threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings Saturday night against the Twins in his Major League debut, serving as an impressive bridge to closer Jim Johnson after an abbreviated outing by starter Chris Tillman.

"I definitely was [nervous]," said McFarland, who entered in the fourth inning to face Twins first baseman Justin Morneau with two on and two out. "I was kind of able to work through it and calm myself down and really just throw strikes."

The 23-year-old McFarland, selected from the Indians at the last Winter Meetings, allowed one hit and struck out five in a dominant 40-pitch outing. McFarland threw 28 strikes and struck out four consecutive batters at one point -- Aaron Hicks, Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham and Morneau.

One of the Orioles' final roster decisions this spring, McFarland is the third lefty in the Orioles bullpen and the final reliever to pitch this season. Chris Parmelee singled in the sixth and was the lone Twin to reach base against him.

McFarland, who split the 2012 season between Cleveland's Double-A and Triple-A affiliates, got off to a rocky start this spring, but turned it around and the organization opted to keep him. He recorded a 4.70 ERA over 15 1/3 Grapefruit League innings, making one start.

"Been impressed with [his composure] all spring," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Only time he got really frustrated were the first couple of outings, when he knew he was better than that. He and [pitching coach Rick Adair] had a couple of sessions, and he got back to doing what he was doing to be wanted. Since then, he has been real consistent, especially pitching in some of those hitter-friendly situations you have in the spring.

"You never really know when you get into a situation like tonight. Fortunately, it was a good spot for him. He got a little better and a little better."

McFarland will keep the ball from his first strikeout -- Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe -- along with a box of a dozen authenticated baseballs to give out to his family. McFarland said he will also cherish the memory of swinging open the bullpen door and jogging across the outfield grass to the mound at Camden Yards.

"It was an incredible feeling," he said. "Nothing beats it. The adrenaline, the excitement, I really can't even put into words. It really is just the best feeling you could ever feel."

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.