Brandon McCarthy pitched in a game on Wednesday for the first time since signing a free-agent contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. More important, it was the first time McCarthy took the mound since being struck in the head by a line drive in September in Oakland.
McCarthy struck out four as he made his Cactus League debut for the Diamondbacks against the Cincinnati Reds. He appeared to show no ill effects from the incident that forced him to undergo emergency brain surgery and jeopardized his baseball career and his life in September.
According to ESPN.com, McCarthy told reporters, “I assume it will become less of a hot issue. For me, it can’t really get more behind me than it is. But I think I’ll always be that guy, where it’s one of the defining markers for me. I just have to try to pitch well enough to get out of that.”
McCarthy, 29, signed a two-year, $15.5 million contract with Arizona as a free agent in December. The Diamondbacks are hoping he can fill the fourth spot in the rotation.
McCarthy’s biggest supporter, his wife Amanda, was skeptical that her husband would ever pitch again after suffering an epidural hemorrhage, skull fracture and a brain contusion.
“I personally thought baseball was over after last year,” she said. “It’s awesome to see him out there. It’s surreal.”
McCarthy struck out the first batter he faced on a called third strike, and after giving up a single, struck out the next two Reds to retire the side.
“The first outing of the spring is always a really rough one for me because I feel like I’m going to screw something up or forget something in my routine,” McCarthy said. “That’s what I’m nervous about. It’s not the actual pitches or anything. I feel like I’m going to goof up and be on TV. But once you actually start throwing, everything starts to come back.”
McCarthy was asked about pitchers wearing protective headgear.
“It’s not very good — at all.” said the right-hander. “Until the products are better, it’s going to be slow moving.”