McCarthy ready for a bounce back season

Billy McCarthy played in eleven games this spring with the big league club and hit .364. Is this a sign the right-handed hitter is poised for a comeback season?

SHANKS: Now that you've had time to reflect on last year (.235 average in 345 at bats in Richmond), what do you think?
MCCARTHY: Yeah I just didn't have it – at all. I never got it going, never got it started. I was just never consistent. In the offseason I thought long and hard, more negative than positive for the most part. I just said, ‘I got to play it out and see what happens.' But I'd like to think it wasn't me and that I'm a better ballplayer than that. There's really one way to find out and that's to play this out and see what I have.

SHANKS: When you look at your numbers in your career, last season was the first time when you were healthy that you struggled and didn't hit. It's not like this had happened before in your career.
MCCARTHY: Right. It was just one of those things when nothing ever started for me. Nothing was working. You just have to pick your head up and keep on going. You can't feel sorry for yourself. You can't sit there and cry about it. You've just got to keep your head up and go.

SHANKS: Is it natural to think about it too much and over-analyze what happened?
MCCARTHY: I did. I tried everything and nothing was working. I just kind of walked up to the plate and hit. Whether it was mechanical, mental, physical, or what I was just off. I'd like to think I can get it back this year.

SHANKS: The ability for you to come over here to the big league camp and perform a little bit must make you feel like the Braves have not given up on you. Does that make you feel good?
MCCARTHY: I'm pleasantly surprised, to say the least. It makes me feel they still have some sort of faith in me and that they know I'm still breathing. I'm still alive. That feels pretty good. My last two years, injuries or no injuries, the numbers aren't there. That's all you have to look at in baseball. You wake up the next day and you see what you did the night before. At the end of the year you see how your season went based on the numbers that are on the paper, and my numbers have not been there for over two seasons now. So to be over here is definitely a good thing. The more they can see me or know that I'm still around is a positive thing.

SHANKS: That last part of 2004 in Richmond when you went up there you hit the heck out of the ball (.354 average in 178 at bats). So you know you have done it before at Triple-A.
MCCARTHY: Yeah it does. That was the last time everything was right. It was before everything happened with my ankle, and I don't know if I'll ever be the same (due to the ankle problems). I'd like to think I will. I'd like to think I am right now. But there's only one way to find out and that's to play. But I know when I'm healthy and when I can go I can be a hitter. I'd like to think I can help the team off the bench somewhere.

SHANKS: Did your ankle bother you last season?
MCCARTHY: No it's the same, but it's just something I'm going to have to deal with. It's a different feeling. It's not as strong. It's just the way it is. It's just something you have to overcome and deal with. It's the way it's going to be. A lot of guys go through it with surgeries. You either bounce back or you don't.

SHANKS: But has the ankle contributed to your troubles the last two years.?
MCCARTHY: Yes. Without a doubt. There's no doubt. When I look back there are just things I can't do that I was able to do in the past. I feel myself getting back to that point again. When I had the surgery the surgeons said that I might never be the same. They knew I had to at least give myself a year. I knew that going in that I had to give myself a year. It wasn't so much that when it felt good that I could have played, but it was just the grind that was really wearing on it. But I've just got to play.

SHANKS: I guess now you know what you have to do to somewhat nurse that ankle to get through the full year.
MCCARTHY: Yeah I think you've got to be more careful with it. You can't overdo it too much. You can't golf on your off days; your off days you've got to rest. You've got to just stay off it a little more. You play the game, and not so much rest, but you can't overdo it.

SHANKS: Since they've brought you up here, do you feel that you're back that if they need somebody this season they're going to remember you again?
MCCARTHY: I think at this point it really comes down to a numbers game, where if I'm down there and I'm doing the job in Richmond then I think it will open the eyes. But at this point, and at my age (27), a lot of guys in my situation you have to turn heads. You have to push the issue. It's not anything that's going to be handed to you. You've got to put up numbers, be a good team guy, and you've got to play hard. If those things go right, usually guys like that end up getting a chance.

Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta, 105.5 the Fan in Macon, and the Atlanta Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at

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