McCarthy test drives new mechanics

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Brandon McCarthy took the mound for the first time in over two months on Saturday, giving up five runs in one-plus innings. Lone Star Dugout caught up with McCarthy after the game in this free preview of premium content.


Brandon McCarthy made his first rehab start with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Saturday evening in Sacramento.

The right-hander, who had not pitched since June 4 at Yankee Stadium, took the mound and surrendered five runs on four hits and a walk in one-plus innings against the River Cats.

Although McCarthy's results were not excellent, the rehab went well in that he feels good and it was another step closer to re-joining the Rangers for the stretch drive. The 26-year-old threw 37 pitches and 22 for strikes. His fastball sat comfortably in the 88-91 mph range, and he was able to get a handful of swings and misses with the heater. McCarthy fanned Brett Wallace with three consecutive 89 mph fastballs in the first inning.

McCarthy also mixed in a couple of breaking balls—some harder sliders, some slower curveballs—as well as some changeups. Although the pitcher allowed a hit to the final batter he faced, his stuff looked strong in the at-bat. He started the hitter with a 79 mph slider for a called strike, then threw an 87 mph fastball in the dirt. McCarthy's next two heaters were at 92 and 93 mph, respectively.

Because McCarthy is working with almost completely new mechanics, results certainly take a back seat to development and experience during the first couple of rehab starts, and McCarthy feels he was able to learn quite a bit from his first game action in over two months.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with McCarthy after the game for a Q&A.

Jason Cole: What exactly was the injury that landed you on the disabled list?

Brandon McCarthy: It's a stress fracture in my scapula. It's the second time I've done it. I did it in 2007. There's a little bone back there that kind of tears.

Cole: Talk to me about your rehab process up to this point. How much have you been throwing before you got your first game action tonight?

McCarthy: I've been throwing for just a little more than a month, but this was probably my fifth or sixth time on the mound. It's my first time on the mound in a game situation—there were a couple of live BP's. We re-worked all my mechanics. It's the first time in a game with those, so it has been a little bit of a process.

Cole: How many more rehab starts are you expecting to make?

McCarthy: I would assume three more, to where I'd be ready pitch count-wise. Again, I know a lot of it is going to depend on if I'm where I need to be results-wise. Working with new mechanics, I've got to make sure I'm comfortable and that I can hold up over the course of a big league season.

Cole: How is your arm feeling right now?

McCarthy: It feels fine. There have been no problems. The only thing I'm trying to get over the hurdle with is just with my mechanics.

Cole: What exactly is different with the mechanics?

McCarthy: It gets kind of tactical, but it's getting my arm into a better position. Not putting my body in so many inefficient positions. Obviously, I've been doing something to where I was avoiding major injuries, but I kept creeping up on little injuries and things that just kind of kept breaking down.

I'm just trying to find way to smooth all that out. But I won't know the results of that for a couple of years—if I'm able to stay healthy. There's just a lot of little tweaks in there.

McCarthy hopes to avoid injury.
Cole: Is your arm slot a little lower than it has been in the past?

McCarthy: No, it's basically the same. At least there wasn't a conscious effort to change it. It's more of the way I get back and making my front side a little more efficient. Instead of pulling off, it stays on a little longer. It's kind of a mix and all of it goes together.

Cole: As you mentioned, this was your first time to take the mound competitively with these mechanics. Does it still feel a little weird to you out there?

McCarthy: Yeah, it does. I just don't have reference points in there, so if something gets a little bit askew, I don't have a quick mental command to just kind of take it back the way I would the older mechanics.

That's kind of the process I have to go through now—I have to find out how to adjust on the mound and on the fly. Tonight I was able to do an okay job going into the second inning, but there is still a lot of work to be done until I go out again.

Cole: Who was behind making these mechanical changes? Did they come from Mike Maddux?

McCarthy: It was actually a lot of people. Mike [Maddux] gave me the suggestion that kind of got the ball rolling. I came in with some ideas and things I wanted to do, and then he gave something more—just simply swinging my hands back. That kind of put me in positions I want to be in.

But Trip [Somers] had a hand in it. There are actually quite a few people that had a hand in it. I was just taking input from wherever I could and then it was just kind of me and Mike ironing out where I needed to be.

Cole: Well, let's talk about your time on the mound tonight. How'd you feel about your first rehab start?

McCarthy: Inconsistent. I felt like I was getting a little ahead of myself—a little rushed. But I know it's still early in the process, and it's something that each day further that I go, I can get a little more experience with it and it will improve. At least getting out there and testing it in a game situation—sticking with it when things are getting a little dicey instead of going back to the old way.

It's hard, as a competitor, to say that you're happy with giving up four runs in an inning. But at least I was able to find out a lot of things, and hopefully those will be things that I take with me.

Cole: Do you almost feel like the rehab has more to do with the mechanics than it does the injury you're coming back from?

McCarthy: Yeah. I know the health thing is not an issue. It is healed. The rehab starts are mainly just getting pitch count back up and making sure you're ready to go. That's a big thing with them too. Mechanics are the other thing. It's making sure that when I come back, I'm a big league pitcher again with new mechanics. And hopefully just as valuable to the club as I was before.

Cole: Have these new mechanics changed your stuff at all?

McCarthy: No, the stuff is pretty much the same. As I get a little stronger, I'll see where the velocity is at. Assuming it'll be similar, I think all my stuff—the breaking stuff is still the same. It's all there. Nothing much is different. I don't even know that if you look at it with the naked eye you can see it. To me it feels like a completely different universe, but the way the ball comes out is still the same.

Cole: I know tonight was just your first rehab start, but do you have an approximate date in mind for your return to the Rangers?

McCarthy: I haven't thought that far down the road. I would hope somewhere within two weeks. I will be able to make three more starts in that period, and if everything is where it needs to be, then hopefully I can do that. But as for a concrete date, I don't know. I'd like for it to be before September, I know that.

Cole: Obviously the Rangers are in a playoff race right now, battling for either first place or the wild card. How much are you looking forward to getting back and being part of that run?

McCarthy: It'll be fun. Losing the last two months has been tough. You kind of sit back and watch a team and they're battling through a playoff race. As a baseball player, that's what you want to be a part of. Just sitting at home and not being able to be in it kind of hurts. But that's why I'm trying to do everything I can as fast as I can to be back there and do whatever it takes to help them.

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