Brandon McCarthy’s 2013 season did not go nearly according to plan.
He was limited to just 22 inconsistent starts, finishing with a 5-11 record to go along with a 4.53 ERA.
Needless to say, he’s hoping for a better 2014, with more effectiveness and fewer injury issues. And, of course, more team success.
“I think there’s a group of guys here that know exactly what they want, which last year I think were kind of getting there but I think we didn’t have people that — we didn’t have that true leadership that came through,” the right-hander said Thursday as pitchers and catchers reported to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick for spring training. “And it’s the one thing that I’ve seen and just talking with guys so far, there’s an idea of exactly what we want and I think we know how to implement that now.”
Last season the D-backs followed up a fast start with a slow finish and were passed by the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL West lead, ultimately finishing the season with a 81-81 record and a full 11 games behind L.A.
The hope, though, is the addition of new players like Mark Trumbo and Addison Reed — along with the return to health for guys like Miguel Montero and Aaron Hill — will be enough to get the team over the top and into the postseason.
That, and an improved attitude.
“I think you’re going to see a clubhouse of guys that go out of their way to get things the way they want it, to set an attitude the way they want it, and that’s something that carries over,” McCarthy said. “We can’t use outside forces that dictate what we do in here. Literally, there’s a core group of guys that, ‘this is the way things are going to be, this is how we’re going to do them, this is how we’ll execute it.'”
That would appear to be result of a team believing it fell short last year for no reason other than itself. It’s a group confident in its abilities.
“It’s an angry, angry group that knows we want to win this year,” McCarthy added. “Nobody wants to be sitting at home in October again and watching other teams. It gets old when you do it and I know if you’ve done it enough, it starts to get really boring and really old, and you start to feel left out.”
That’s not to say McCarthy doesn’t know overtaking the Dodgers as well as fending off the NL West’s other teams will not be a challenge, because he said the team is aware of what it’s up against.
But whatever happened last year — on the field and in the clubhouse — is in the past. From now on, it’s all about what the team can become.
“It was just a little bit of a floating mentality where you weren’t locked in,” he said of last year. “It’s hard for people to emerge when you don’t have one central thing that you’re bonding around.
“This year I think it’s there, there’s a group of guys that know exactly what they want. It’s just from day one, you either buy in or you get left behind. If the right guys are there doing that and they’re implementing it and they have the mentality every day, people will just join in. I think that’s how you create a solid team that can do good things.”
Because talent, McCarthy says, won’t be an issue.
“Talent’s talent,” he said, pointing to teams like the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays who have surprised and won their fair share of games. “Talent’s there. If you’re in the big leagues, the talent is there. I think this is where you start to find those fine little margins there that make someone better.”
That includes mental toughness and a team attitude that the D-backs may have lacked last year but are looking to have now. That, he said, is what helps a team like the Red Sox go and win the World Series.
“I still don’t think Boston was the most talented team last year, but there’s no doubt that they were the best team,” he said. “We have to find something similar to that as a group to where no matter what, we can go out and beat groups as a team, just keep doing it series after series after series.
“And hopefully that carries us.”