No fright, no panic.
That’s the way Diamondbacks’ right-hander Brandon McCarthy described his first session with live hitters Monday. This experience followed a fateful injury late in the 2012 season that put his baseball career and nearly his life at risk.
Pitching for Oakland last September 29, McCarthy was hit in the face with a line drive off the bat of the Angles’ Erick Aybar and sustained an epidural hemorrhage, a brain contusion and a skull fracture. He underwent two hours of emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his brain and doctors managed to pull McCarthy out of harm’s way.
Sidelined for the rest of the regular season and the post-season, McCarthy was cleared in mid-November to resume baseball activities by Dr. Mickey Collins of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
During his rehab period, McCarthy went through an extensive therapy and recovery. By December, the Diamondbacks were encouraged enough to sign the 6-7 native of Glendale, Calif. to a two-year, $15 million deal.
On Monday, McCarthy displayed the kind of tools which would merit that kind of contract. Fluid and effective, he showed a strong command of his fastball, a nasty curve and solid control.
Speaking with reporters after the session, McCarthy indicated he needs to improve a curve ball which he said is essentially a work in progress. Otherwise, things went smoothly.
Overall, he received raving reviews from catcher Miguel Montero and manager Kirk Gibson. More important, the fear which might have jeopardized his baseball career was absent.
“If I thought it was there before, it was not there,” McCarthy said of a possible residue from the experience from last fall. “The only thing I was worried about was my command.”
That didn’t seem to bother the Diamondbacks brass in the least.
For his initial experience facing live hitters, McCarthy appeared to be on the top of his game. Montero yelled encouragement often and was heard, on more than on occasion, “good pitch,” and “good location.” Displaying just over a three-quarter delivery, McCarthy was sharp in mechanics and placement.
“He was locating his fast ball and showed a live arm,” Montero said. “His command was there and now he needs to keep it up.”
For his part, McCarthy said he was satisfied with the effort but recognized the outing was only the first in a marathon known as an elongated baseball season.
Going forward, he cited development of a changing curve as a principal project on his radar screen.
“A few years ago, it wasn’t a good pitch at all, and I’ve changed a few things,” he said. “Maybe I threw it three or four times in a game, but now I think I need to go with the curve more.”
Just ask Chris Owings, designated as perhaps the shortstop of the future.
Facing McCarthy, Owings, coming off a solid Arizona Fall League and one name kicked around the organization as having great potential, simply buckled when McCarthy snapped a curve over the inside corner.
“First time I saw him and he threw the ball really well,” said Gibson. “He knew what to do with it, and his mechanics were well."
For the first time out against live hitters, enough said.
WAITING FOR THE FUTURE
After the Diamondbacks dumped leading pitching prospect Trevor Bauer to the Cleveland Indians in a major three team deal over the off-season, there appears to be a significant change.
During Bauer’s tenure with the Diamondbacks, he developed the reputation as a distant personality. Rumors persisted he was never on the same page with catcher Miguel Montero, and his pre-game workouts were alien to baseball preparation.
At the end of last season, the Diamondbacks seemed impatient with Bauer’s method of communication, and that the native of North Hollywood, Calif. strayed far from prescribed methods of training.
“I didn’t know him or much about him in Arizona,” said Cleveland manager Terry Franconia. “We’re excited to have him here and look forward to his future, whenever that may be.”
Bauer left the desert with an assortment of nine pitches and also a 1-2 mark with a 6.06 ERA in Sedona Red. Franconia, named the Indians manager right after last season concluded, said Bauer has been on the same page with the rest of the organization.
“(Bauer’s) following the program, and has looked very good this spring,” Franconia added. “He’s very intelligent, think before he speaks and everything has been nothing but great.”
On Monday, the Diamondbacks acquired fleet outfielder Tony Campana from the Cubs for two right-handed pitchers, Jesus Castillo and Erick Leak.
Both pitchers are 17 and signed as free agents. As well, both Castillo and Leak pitched for the D-backs affiliate in the Dominican Summer League and have no minor league experience in the Diamondbacks organization.
Campana comes to the desert with a reputation as a base stealer. Since 2011, his 91.5 percent stealing percentage is second in the majors behind the Padres’ Everth Cabrera (92.0 percent).
With two minor league options remaining, Campana will likely start the season at AAA Reno, but general manager Kevin Towers told reporters Monday that the acquisition gives the organization needed depth in the outfield position.
“He definitely adds speed,” Towers said. “He’s preformed well and gives us a few options. Overall, we think this is a good addition.”
To make room on the 40 man roster for Campana, the Diamondbacks placed right-handed pitcher Daniel Hudson on the 60 day disabled list.
SOME BASEBALL HISTORY
When Orioles reliever Darren O’Day signed a two year Monday, he became the 133rd and final player to settle at the arbitration level.
That marked the first since the arbitration process began in 1974 that no player settled without a hearing.
O’Day inked a two year, $5.8 million deal with the Birds, and thus put a footnote in baseball history.
The previous low was three hearings in 2005 and equaled in both 2009 and 2010. The arbitration process was suspended for a two year period, in 1976 and 1977 which the structure of free agency was established.