Never a doubt, McCarthy makes successful return
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Amanda McCarthy knew her husband Brandon wasn't nervous.
But she was.
Signed by Arizona as a free agent in the offseason, McCarthy not only made his exhibition debut for the Diamondbacks on Wednesday afternoon, but it was the first time he had faced a hitter in an opposition uniform since last Sept. 5, when Angels infielder Erick Aybar's line drive caught the A's McCarthy behind the right ear.
"He has totally moved forward," said Amanda. "But it's different for me. I sat there and [watched] on Sept. 5. It was more emotional for me. I saw it. He was in and out for a week. He didn't realize what was going on."
What McCarthy realizes is that it is time for him to get back to work, which he did rather impressively against the Reds at Salt River Fields. He did give up a run in two innings, but he struck out four batters, including Joey Votto on three pitches. He threw 19 strikes among 23 pitches.
And he answered whatever questions anybody had about any fear about a repeat of last September.
"I'm glad this is out of the way," he said. "I felt good. My command, for my first spring outing, was really a plus. My rhythm was good. The game pace was good. It's a good place to build on."
For Amanda it's just exciting to think her husband has a career he can still build on. McCarthy did, after all, suffer an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture, and underwent a two-our surgery to relieve pressures on the brain. He was sedated for the better part of a week, and once he came home, instead of his normal workout routine, he didn't do much of anything for a month, giving time for the occasional headaches and other pains to subside.
"I thought baseball was over after last year," she said.
McCarthy said she never brought that up to him, but if she had, "I would have probably told her to shut up. That's not what I thought. The thought I had was I was going to pitch again."
The Diamondbacks, however, never doubted his ability to come back, which is why they gave him a two-year, $15.5 million deal.
"We did our homework," said manager Kirk Gibson. "Everything was fine [medically]. We felt he would overcome [the mental part]. He's a baseball player. He likes to pitch. He likes to help his team win. He is a competitive guy. Obviously, he is strong mentally."
And he has shown that in his brief time with Arizona, not missing a beat in the routine drills, never showing any sign of hesitation because of the September incident.
"The event [stunk], but I can't do anything to fix it," said McCarthy. "I'm glad we got [the first game] over."
He certainly made that statement on the mound against the Reds. After a first-pitch ball, he struck out Billy Hamilton on three more pitches. Brandon Phillips had a first-pitch single, and he struck out Votto and Ryan Ludwick on three pitches to get through the first.
Denis Phipps did lead off the second by lining McCarthy's first pitch to center for a triple and scored on Neftali Soto's ensuing sacrifice fly. After a three-pitch strikeout of Jack Hannahan, Miguel Olivo singled, but Jason Donald grounded into a forceout, ending the inning, and McCarthy's day of work.
"He was awesome," Amanda said. "What did he strike out, a million? I'm not on pins and needles anymore."
Now, McCarthy hopes, it is time to get back to basics. It's time for his pitching to be the focus.
"I know, I will always be 'that guy,' " he said, "but I want it to be a footnote."
He wants to be more known for what he does on the mound.
And avoiding the recurrence of the stress fracture in his right shoulder that has flared up in five of the last six seasons is more of an issue than flashbacks to the incident with Aybar.
He knows, after all, that the shoulder was an issue that kept teams from pursuing him in free agency.
"When you get a medical file and it takes two CDs, I think that's scary for some training staffs," he said. "But I feel like it's healthy. If I do the things I am supposed to do it will take care of itself, or not."
With that he shrugged.
There are some things he can't control.
And fortunately for McCarthy, he doesn't worry about them.
Amanda can carry that burden.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.