Following a series of games where the crucial parts of the bullpen were heavily used, the Orioles find themselves in need of an extra, just-in-case reliever for the short-term. There were rumblings after Monday's game that extra reliever would be lefty T.J. McFarland, who spent last year as the long reliever in the bullpen. He is now in Toronto with the team.
Adding McFarland means that someone will have to be sent packing. The Orioles bullpen is constructed in such a way that everyone is either good or out of options. Some are both. The only player who could actually be sent down to make room for McFarland is Ryan Webb, which would not be warranted. Though as of 4 o'clock Tuesday, no official announcement was made about the corresponding roster move, the first indication is that Steve Pearce will be designated for assignment.
McFarland pitched 74.2 innings for the O's in 2013 over 38 games, one of which was a start. He had a 4.22 ERA in that time, which is acceptable for the guy you put in to hold the line and save the rest of the bullpen a bit of work, but nothing spectacular. That seems to be the role that he will now occupy until whenever the Orioles decide that 13 pitchers is too many, which should not take long, and unless there is an injury, he will probably be the guy sent back down at that time.
This is not a surprising move in the sense that Pearce, a right-handed hitter who is largely a DH/outfield type, is a redundant presence with Nelson Cruz and Delmon Young on the roster. He's been buried on the bench, appearing in only three of the team's 18 games and getting only seven at-bats in that time. There is no point to carrying a guy like that who will not be used, so, at the first chance they needed to add someone to the roster, off he goes.
The biggest question is why did they bother having Pearce on the roster in the first place? It may very well be that he was there all along with the intent that he'd be the easy fodder to be removed at the first opportunity. A roster spot taken up by a player who can be cast aside on any whim without any regret is something valuable to Dan Duquette, because it means there's always room for something better, and you don't have to agonize about who to toss aside for that better option.