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D-backs’ Brandon McCarthy battles stomach bug, sparkles in second spring start

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Consistency seemed to elude Brandon McCarthy for the better part of his first season with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

From start-to-start and even inning-to-inning, there was never a whole lot of confidence that the same pitcher would show up on the mound. In fact, McCarthy’s longest streak of quality starts last season was three — one he set on two separate occasions.

It’s a problem that the 30-year-old might have alleviated to some degree in the offseason, at least based on how his first two starts this spring have gone.

McCarthy, who battled control problems and injuries en route to a 5-11 record and 4.53 ERA in 2013, followed up the four productive innings he tossed in the D-backs’ 4-1 Cactus League opening win over the Los Angeles Dodgers Feb. 26 with an even better outing Monday afternoon.

The Arizona right-hander worked with great pace, hit spots effectively and efficiently powered his way through the Los Angeles Angels’ B-team lineup with ground ball after ground ball. In five scoreless frames, McCarthy allowed just two hits and one walk, while getting 11 of 15 outs on the ground.

“He was real good today,” battery mate Bobby Wilson said following the D-backs’ 3-2 loss. “He was down the whole time. His sinker was really good. He threw some good breaking balls. For the most part, he was down in the zone for ground balls. He threw the ball well.”

Before Monday’s game, Wilson had only seen McCarthy up-close and personal once in a plate appearance back in Sept. 2012 when both were members of the American League West. Two years later, the 30-year-old backstop noted that McCarthy has really come a long way with his secondary pitches.

“Honestly now, his breaking ball has a lot more bite than I remember,” said Wilson. “He’s always been a tough at-bat. He has a good sinker and he stays down in the zone a lot.”

The effort was that much more impressive when considering that McCarthy battled a stomach bug through all five innings.

“He was great,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “I know he was sick, but he got out there and got it going. He got through it and that’s what we’re going to need during the season.”

McCarthy didn’t receive one of the two starting nods for the opening series in Sydney, but Gibson said he’s been very encouraged from what he’s seen throughout camp, highlighted, of course, by Monday’s five-inning performance.

“He executed well and that’s what we try to get him to do,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “He’s been throwing well in his bullpens, as well. This is good, a really good game for him.

“He’s throwing all of his pitches, but he’s throwing the ball down. When you see all those balls on the ground, you have to have good location. He moved it around, kept the ball down and had good late life on it. Breaking ball was good again. Threw the ball inside when he had to. And the other thing is that he’s staying away from pitches that get him into trouble.”