Brandon McCarthy is certainly not the only starting pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks excited about the upcoming 2014 MLB season, elated that last year’s misery is now in the rearview mirror. McCarthy showcased his renewed energy during a solid start in the Diamondbacks’ spring training opener on Wednesday versus the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Through four innings, McCarthy only surrendered one run on four hits, walking only one batter while striking out two. With top pitching prospect Archie Bradley competing for a spot in the rotation, combined with the recent signing of veteran free agent starter Bronson Arroyo, McCarthy and the other Arizona starters who turned in disappointing seasons in 2013 all know that they must earn their spot back in the rotation.
Given the fact that starting pitching was a weak area for the Diamondbacks last season (to put things lightly), mere seniority in the rotation won’t even produce a blip on manager Kirk Gibson’s radar. Nonetheless, the skipper liked what he saw out of McCarthy in the debut game.
“He kind of set the tone for us. Let us play defense behind him. He threw the ball really good. It was a positive day for him,” Gibson said, according to arizonasports.com.
For his part, McCarthy seemed relieved to put his first Spring Training start in the books, and on a positive note, remarking after the game that it was a good thing to “get those competitive juices going again and kind of get the nerves out of the way.”
Once again, McCarthy battled injuries throughout the 2013 season, including a two month stint on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder. He finished 5-11 with a 4.53 ERA in only 22 starts. In his seven-year career in the majors (split between the Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, Oakland A’s and Diamondbacks) he has never started more than 25 games in a season, and he has pitched more than 135 innings in only one season.
Nonetheless, a healthy McCarthy undoubtedly serves the Diamondbacks well. His pitch control is impeccable, and he walked only 22 batters all season (only 1.4 BB per nine innings pitched). Although he doesn’t throw a lot of strikeouts either, he forces plenty of groundouts with dazzling sinkers and cutters that have led some to deem him a “mini-Maddux.”
McCarthy has proven he can get the job done, provided he stays healthy. Even a nagging injury that doesn’t necessarily keep a pitcher out of the lineup can still be detrimental to that pitcher’s overall performance, and McCarthy’s disappointing numbers last season are a textbook example.
Furthermore, injuries can cause a team’s starting rotation to self-destruct. The Diamondbacks learned that the hard way last season. However, if starters like McCarthy manage to stay healthy, rested and confident, one of the Diamondbacks’ biggest bogeymen from last season will vanish, and the team will likely reemerge in postseason play after a frustrating two year absence.