D-backs cut off McCarthy’s cutter controversy

Brandon McCarthy is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in two starts with the Yankees after he was traded by the Diamondbacks.

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PHOENIX — Brandon McCarthy has two quality starts since joining the New York Yankees and he credits a return to the cut fastball, a pitch he said the Diamondbacks did not want him to throw.

After a 7-1 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday, McCarthy said his expanded arsenal made the difference. He threw about 20 cutters while giving up one run and six hits in six innings.

"It’s something I know that I need to be successful," McCarthy said. "It was something I didn’t totally agree with."

The D-backs would not be drawn into the discussion.

"Yeah, well, I wish him well," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said when McCarthy’s comments were relayed Monday. "People handle things different ways. The way I’ll handle it, let’s just say it was all my fault, OK?"

McCarthy used his two-seam fastball, his best pitch when it stays low in the strike zone, and his curveball about 88 percent of the time this season, according to FanGraphs, while going 3-10 with a 5.01 ERA in 18 starts for the D-backs. 

He used his cutter about 10 percent of the time, down from about 35 percent in his previous three seasons with Oakland (2011-12) and the D-backs (2013). He was 5-11 with a 4.53 ERA his first season in Arizona.

The D-backs, as a rule, are not fond of the cut fastball. They believe the wrist adjustment needed to throw it effectively can be difficult to master, and that if not thrown properly, the ball has a tendency to flatten out in the hitting zone.

It’s something I know that I need to be successful. It was something I didn’t totally agree with.

McCarthy said Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild approached him about throwing more cutters soon after he was acquired July 6, and that he already had begun working on the pitch in the bullpen. 

McCarthy, 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in his two starts with the Yankees, believes the cutter works in tandem with his sinking fastball to give hitters a different look. The D-backs believed the curveball would get hitters’ bats off his hard stuff.

He told New York media Saturday that he relished the trade to a contender.

"For me, it’s at a point in my career where I want to be challenged," McCarthy said. "I really want to be in a pennant race. I wanted to be closer to the playoffs. I wanted to be in a market that is difficult. I wanted that kind of stuff to see if I could push myself to the next level, so it’s a great opportunity in that sense."

After giving up 15 homers in 109-2/3 innings with the D-backs, he has given up one in 12-2/3 innings with the Yankees. Cincinnati outfielder Chris Heisey hit a cut fastball for a home run in the fourth inning Saturday.

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