‘Put me in,’ said McCarthy — and Dodgers agreed
By Jon Weisman
If you’re wondering whether the Dodgers fast-tracked Brandon McCarthy’s final furlong of Tommy John rehab because of their current injury crisis, that’s not the case.
It is fair to say, though, McCarthy’s readiness timed out well with the Dodgers’ needs.
“This is right where I wanted to be,” McCarthy said today, about 21 hours before his 2016 debut. “I was the one who said, ‘Let’s go.’ I felt that I had gotten to a place with my stuff and feeling-wise that I felt confident about being here, and if there was a need for me, I said, ‘Put me in.’ ”
The Dodgers and McCarthy finalized their decision a couple of days after his most recent rehab start, a 72-pitch outing June 27 for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.
“Getting through five innings, and it was 105 degrees in Visalia, it was kind of a grind to get through it, (but) I realized I had spent most of the game and hadn’t really thought about my elbow,” McCarthy said. “It wasn’t even a thought — it was just pitching to get people out.
“I said, ‘Listen if you guys are fine with it being time, I’m ready to go.’ They got back to me the next day after playing another game and saw where everything was falling with a lot of moving pieces, and said, ‘You’re gonna start Sunday.'”
McCarthy is trying to avoid attaching any emotional significance to his first MLB game since April 25, 2015.
“I don’t want it to be anything different than just a start,” he said. “I understand that there’s something there to it, but I’m trying not to place any mental importance on it. Once I start focusing on things that are outside of just trying to get the Rockies out, it becomes a little bit too much. At some other point I’ll have a chance to look back.”
To be sure, McCarthy feels he has spent more than enough time over the past 15 months thinking about pitching, compared with actually doing it.
“It’s kind of like going into broadcasting,” he said. “When you’re watching on the couch, you’re like, ‘That’s a stupid pitch to throw,’ but you realize when you get back out there that it’s really hard to do that, and there’s a reason why that mistake happens.”
McCarthy said it was difficult to compare how he feels now to how he felt when he started the 2015 season.
“I felt very much 100 percent (last April),” McCarthy said. “I felt off mechanically. Health-wise was no question, but pitching-wise I didn’t feel fantastic that spring. Now, there’s no way to really describe it other than every day is a new day. … One day is a very good day, and the next day you’re a little sore. It just goes back and forth, and from what I’ve heard that’s how you go through your first season until the offseason.”
He added that while he expects ups and downs going forward, that’s not so different from what those who have been pitching all season experience.
“There’s time when I can see what people talked about, where their feel gets a little off coming back and you don’t feel as sharp,” McCarthy said. “But then there are days when I don’t expect to be as sharp, and it comes off really well. There’s less certainty I guess — that’s something I expect to kind of have to work through this year, but it’s felt good enough that I feel confident coming back.”