SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Usually, hard feelings do not occur until a game begins. Not Monday. Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker would not shake D-backs manager Kirk Gibson’s hand at the pregame lineup exchange because the D-backs opted against using a DH at Salt River Fields.
Newcomer Brandon McCarthy has not had an official at-bat since 2009, spending his entire pitching career in the American League, and Gibson wanted to get him an at-bat. Baker wanted to use the DH, but the home team sets those rules in exhibition play.
The first lineup the D-backs sent to the D-backs hours before the game included a DH, intensifying feelings in a game the D-backs won, 7-2.
“I wanted to play a National League game,” Gibson said. “I notified them several times. They just wanted to do it their way and they couldn’t do it. They didn’t like that. We play by the rules here. If we were over there, we play by their rules.”
Said Baker: “He wanted his pitcher to hit, and I wanted (Shin-Soo) Choo to DH. We didn’t have a very pleasant encounter at home plate. It’s over.”
Perhaps in protest, Baker had Johnny Cueto leave his bat on his shoulder for three straight strikes when the starting pitcher came to bat in the third inning.
“I wasn’t allowed to swing,” Cueto said.
Gibson said he “absolutely” wanted to see McCarthy at the plate.
“In my thought process, we all know what he went through last year, so we are trying to do things little by little. He put the bat on the ball. He saw some pitches. The National League is different. We like to do that,” Gibson said.
For the record, McCarty hit a nubber in front of the plate and was thrown out at first base. McCarthy has nine major league at-bats, none since 2009, but he understands the importance of his plate appearances. A National League starting pitcher could get 50-70 plate appearances in a good season.
“I don’t think I’m a complete blubbering idiot up there” McCarthy said. “I think I have some sort of an idea. I think I can foul pitches off and work counts. I think I see pitches OK. Bunting in major league situations is going to be important to me. I’ve never been asked to do that.”
“AL (at-bats), you sort of brush it aside. It is a thing where you laugh and everybody gets on the top rail to watch. Now it is something that you are actually trying to do as part of your game. So it is something as we keep going I am going to focus more and more on and get used to that.”
McCarthy said he would not be averse to doing extra bunting and hitting on back field if that is what it took.
“The more experience, more and more time, eventually the butterflies go away and you start to get an idea of what you are doing,” he said.
Gibson would not disclose the content of his conversation with Baker at the plate.
“It was good locker-room talk. Read between the lines,” he said. Meanwhile, on the mound
McCarthy pitched to 10 batters in three innings, striking out five and giving up a one-out home run to Zack Cozart in the top of the first inning. He was the first D-backs’ starter to go three innings, and Gibson said he considered having McCarthy work a fourth because he used only 34 pitches.
McCarthy threw his sinking fastball inside and also used his cut fastball and moved the ball around well, Gibson said.
“I was able to accomplish all the things I wanted to,” said McCarthy. “The results are always nice. For a spring outing it was pretty solid.
“You want to throw well, that’s the goal. I don’t use spring too much as a project where you are doing other things. I try to pitch the way I would in a season for the most part. There are things here and there that you are playing with. The changeup you try to get comfortable with that. You are just trying to make sure those things come along, that you can still complete and see what hitters are doing.”