SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Diamondbacks right-hander Brandon McCarthy threw to hitters Monday for the first time since suffering a fractured skull and a brain contusion when he was struck by a line drive last September, and it went well.
“It honestly was completely normal,” McCarthy said. “There is that thought of, ‘Is something going to happen?’ The first time they swing, are you going to duck for cover and run for center? But it really wasn’t there. I threw the first pitch, he didn’t swing, and, ‘Oh, this is easy. Let’s go back to doing this again.’
“Anything that you would have thought might have been there wasn’t.”
McCarthy underwent brain surgery a few days after he was struck by a line drive while pitching for Oakland on Sept. 4 and he was completely cleared by concussion specialists in Pittsburgh in November, a month before signing a two-year, $16 million free-agent deal to join the D-backs’ rotation.
“This was a big day for Brandon,” manager Kirk Gibson said.
McCarthy threw 29 pitches, almost all fastballs and changeups.
“My changeup was fairly terrible, but everything else was where I wanted it to be. Mechanics were all good. I was pleased with that,” he said.
McCarthy’s first curve buckled the hitter.
“It buckled me, too, catching it,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “Double-clutch right there.
“His command was great. He looks really good to me. He was low in the strike zone. He located his fastball pretty well. Breaking ball good. His changeup we’re working on.”
McCarthy hopes to add a change this season after discarding it a few years ago, when he rebuilt his repertoire around a two-seam fastball. McCarthy threw an unorthodox change back then, gripping the ball with his little finger, ring finger and thumb. His new change is the more typical circle change.
“The changeup needs to come along. There are some trust issues there. I’ve been away for it for so long it feels brand-new. It’s finding a comfortable grip. Finding a trust with it where you can see hitters reactions and you know you can just throw it over the plate. The trust is there. It’s just making sure that mechanically I’m in an optimal position to throw it where I want to every time,” he said.
The reason for adding it? Easy.
“The better pitchers have changeups. The common thread that you can find with all the elite pitchers in the game now is they all have, at worst, an average changeup, and most have an above-average changeup,” McCarthy said.
“For a lot of them, it has been a difference-maker. With the type of pitches that I throw, something that can get you going forward and back as well as side to side only gives me another layer to work with.
D-BACKS ADD CAMPANA
The D-backs acquired outfielder Tony Campana from the Cubs for non-roster minor league pitchers Erick Leal and Jesus Castillo in a trade Monday. Campana was designated for assignment by Chicago on Feb. 10.
“He’s an 80 runner,” D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said, referring to the scouts’ 20-80 scale used to evaluate players. “Some may say he has as much speed as anybody in our game right now.”
Campana, 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, hit .262 with one home run, 11 RBIs and 54 stolen bases in 59 attempts in parts of the last two seasons with the Cubs. He was the starting center fielder for much of the first half of 2012. Campana has two options remaining and is likely to open the season at Class AAA Reno.
“We continue to try to add speed to our system,” Towers said. Leal and Castillo had not pitched above the Dominican Summer League program.
The D-backs placed Daniel Hudson on the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster. Hudson is proceeding well in his recovery from Tommy John surgery but is not expected to return until after the All-Star break.
DIFFERENT KIND OF BALL
The D-backs’ agenda Monday included a paintball competition, a team-building exercise. Manager Kirk Gibson ordered a light day after two days of heavy drills that included the first live batting practice.