When the Arizona Diamondbacks agreed on a two-year deal with veteran pitcher Brandon McCarthy in December, they did so knowing full well that the 29-year-old would have no problem getting back on the mound after suffering a devastating injury last season.
During a day game against the Los Angeles Angels back on September 5, McCarthy was struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of shortstop Erick Aybar.
The incident left McCarthy, then with the Oakland Athletics, with an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture and forced him to miss the remainder of the regular season and postseason.
Monday, McCarthy stepped back on the mound against live batters for the first time since September 5. And after his BP session was over, the first-year D-back said he experienced no issues, mentally or physically.
“It was honestly completely normal,” said McCarthy. “Anything you thought would have been there really wasn’t. Looking back, I was more nervous about my command and where my stuff was at.
“I don’t care if you’re a rookie or you’re coming in later in spring, me and Trevor (Cahill) were talking about this, the adrenaline is still going and you still feel like this is the first time you’re doing this in forever. That was more of the issue than anything else.”
Although McCarthy was fighting his adrenaline Monday, manager Kirk Gibson said he was impressed by what he saw from the right-hander.
“I thought he threw the ball really well,” said Gibson. “He kept the ball down. I know he’s working on his changeup and his breaking ball. The first breaking ball he threw was really sharp. I just thought it looked like his mechanics were good, and he threw the ball very well.”
Before his unfortunate injury last season, McCarthy was having an impressive campaign with Oakland, going 8-6 with an ERA of 3.24. But while most might think his biggest challenge this spring is overcoming the mental side of facing hitters again, McCarthy said he’s more concerned with the progress of his changeup at this point.
“At least being able to throw (the changeup) for strikes is important,” said McCarthy. “The more I can at least do that, then it’s good and I can start expanding the zone and playing with it.”