McCarthy won’t dwell on comeback from head injury

Brandon McCarthy does not wish to be known as that player who

got hit in the head.

At least for now, though, it’s an identity he can’t escape. When

last seen in a major league baseball game last Sept. 5, the

right-hander – then with the Oakland Athletics – was struck in the

head by a vicious line drive.

The results were as frightening as it gets for a pitcher – an

epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture. At one

point, the Athletics called the injuries ”life-threatening.” Two

hours of surgery were required.

Now, cleared to return by the top expert in the field, he has

begun spring training with his new team, the Arizona Diamondbacks,

where he and the team seem much more concerned about his history of

shoulder problems than with the after-effects of that scary

day.

Such events would be expected to create a greater appreciation

of the chance to play a game for a living, or perhaps even

gratitude to just be alive. McCarthy, speaking after Diamondbacks

pitchers and catchers worked out for the first time on Tuesday,

prefers to downplay the event and its aftermath.

To do otherwise, the 29-year-old right-hander said, gives the

injury too much power.

”I don’t know if it’s a non-cliche answer, but my outlook over

everything, it just really hasn’t changed because of it,” he said.

”Doing that just puts more emphasis on what happened and it

reflects on it, which isn’t something I’m interested in

doing.”

He understands the simple truth. Pitchers throw the ball hard

and sometimes it comes back real hard right at them. That’s what

happened with that line drive off the bat of the Los Angeles

Angels’ Erick Aybar.

”It was a one-time event,” he said. ”It had never happened

before. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen again. My purpose now is to

just focus on what I can control and then just let the enjoyment of

the game come back that way.”

McCarthy is a smart guy. He knows that when he next faces a

batter, there may be a mental hurdle to clear.

”I have no idea,” he said. ”We’ll all find out next week. It

has to be something, just by the nature of what it was, that there

will be a little bit of just getting over. But it’s not something I

anticipate. It’s not something I’m planning for. It’s just

literally trying to get out there, and we’ll see what happens.

”It’s just something if you sit and reflect on it and make it a

bigger issue than it is, then you allow it to control you, and

that’s not something I’m trying to do.”

Arizona general manager Kevin Towers said that the team did

extensive homework before signing McCarthy to a two-year, $15.5

million contract in December.

First of all, the team knew that McCarthy had been treated, and

subsequently cleared to pitch again, by Dr. Michael Collins of the

University of Pittsburgh, one of the foremost experts on head

trauma.

On top of that, Towers said, Diamondbacks managing partner Ken

Kendrick ”knew one of the top neurologists here in the valley who

spent a great deal of time talking, looking at the test results and

where he (McCarthy) was at after some of his visits to

Pittsburgh.”

As a result, Towers said, McCarthy’s head injury issue ”was

probably the least of our concerns.”

The shoulder history was the big one.

Virtually every year, McCarthy said, he has been sent to the

disabled list with a stress fracture in his right shoulder. It

takes five weeks for him to come back.

It’s a rare injury, he said, except for him.

”I’ve got almost all of them in baseball history,” he said.

”It’s just become my injury. There’s something in that area that

we can’t figure out the exact reasoning for it.”

He’s hoping that proactive treatment from a new training staff

will get him through a year unscathed. The injury hits almost to

the day every season, no matter what changes he makes mechanically,

in training or anything else.

Perhaps the injury should bear his name, a la Tommy John.

”Yeah, maybe the `Mack Crack,” he said.

Then he thought better of it.

”I’m more famous for getting hit in the head already,” he

said.

Having a shoulder injury named after him, too, would be too

much.

He knows it scared more teams away from him than the head injury

did.

”We got cleared by Dr. Collins and you really can’t’ get much

more of an all-clear than that,” McCarthy said. ”I know the

shoulder one, for a lot of teams, that was a bigger concern. When

you’re looking at it, you get a medical file and it takes two CDs,

I think that’s scary for some training staffs.”

The definition of scary was seeing McCarthy felled by that line

drive.

The ball hit him in the right side of his head. Eventually, he

was able to walk off the field. But it wasn’t long before he found

himself hospitalized and in very bad shape.

It all came full circle one day not that many weeks ago when his

concussion symptoms finally vanished.

”The very first day I was cleared in the offseason was actually

the day that I felt back normal,” he said. ”That was a day that

was a legitimate relief, because when you’re going through a

concussion you feel like `Is this ever going to go away?”’

The symptoms ”affect you in a lot of different areas, and then

it was sort of like one day my brain said, `No, we’re good now.’

And then from that day on, I feel like I’ve just completely been my

old self. Nothing’s different. I don’t reflect on anything. Once

that lifted, I was good to go.”

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