The Arizona Diamondbacks are gambling on right-handed hurler Brandon McCarthy recovering from a severe health incident a season ago to become an instrumental part of their starting rotation.
The 29-year-old free agent inked a two-year, $15.5 million contract with the D-backs this offseason and is expected to provide depth to an already impressive pitching staff.
McCarthy was struck on the right side of his head by a line drive off the bat of the Los Angeles Angels’ Erick Aybar on Sept. 5.
“I was sort of hesitant as to what I could do or what I was capable of, and then once they pushed me through it, I realized actually I think I’m fine,” McCarthy said after undergoing testing a month ago. “Ever since that day, I haven’t been restricted by anything. I’ve felt no symptoms. It’s become as much of a non-factor as something that major can be.”
McCarthy had surgery for a brain contusion, skull fracture and epidural hemorrhage. Despite the severity of the injury he suffered, the right-hander passed his physical with the D-backs and received a positive report from a concession specialist at the University of Pittsburgh.
“I came through that two or three days of testing to where everything was extremely normal — where I tested right where I would have if I hadn’t had the incident,” McCarthy stated.
The D-backs weren’t the only team who wanted a chance to bring a recovered McCarthy into the fold. He amassed an 8-6 record with a 3.24 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 18 starts for the Oakland Athletics last season. The new D-back boasts a career 37-39 record with a 4.02 ERA and 447 punchouts in 654.1 IP in six major league seasons.
McCarthy said he chose the D-backs in part because of his own comfort level and familiarity of the area, with family members residing in both Scottsdale and Tucson. But the main reason he decided on Arizona was due to the impressive core of the ballclub.
“It’s a team that’s so close to being competitive and two years ago you’re removed from an extremely competitive team, and I think all the ingredients are there for that,” McCarthy said. “A really deep starting rotation, there’s a lot of good offensive talent there, especially young talent. There’s some good defensive players. I think you have everything that you’re looking for, for a team to make a deep run and possibly win the whole thing.”
For his own personal needs, McCarthy said the situation with the D-backs was exactly what he was seeking.
“When you’re looking for something in the shorter term the way we were that’s an important thing. You want to know that you are joining a good team and you could possibly be one of those final pieces too,” McCarthy stated.
Off the field, the D-backs hurler is known for his witty persona and should be a positive influence and lively clubhouse presence. On the mound, McCarthy should benefit in a hitter’s ballpark in large part to his refined mechanics that have reduced the number of fly balls he’s allowed.
“I think more of an emphasis of getting the ground ball now is something that will help me, but it doesn’t mean it’s a guaranteed victory there,” McCarthy said. “A tough park is a tough park. It’s just there’s still that emphasis on making pitches, making quality pitches.”