Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Brandon McCarthy fires a pitch at his first batter since getting stuck by a batted ball in 2012. / Michael Chow, USA TODAY Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Amanda McCarthy tried to stay calm and blend in with the spring-training crowd Wednesday afternoon, but her hands trembled, and her legs quivered in the hot sun.

She shuddered in fear every time her husband, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy, threw a pitch.

"I'm still shaking,'' she said 30 minutes afterwards. "I'm not a very nervous person in general, but this is a unique situation.''

The last time McCarthy pitched in a baseball game, he nearly died. He was hit in the head on a line drive pitching for the Oakland Athletics, crumbled to the mound, and was soon undergoing emergency brain surgery.

"I personally thought baseball was over,'' Amanda said, "after last year.''

Brandon McCarthy can't remember those specific conversations, but said, "If I did, I probably would have told her to shut up."

McCarthy didn't need to say a word this time, speaking with his actions. He struck out the side in the first inning he's pitched since Sept. 5, 2012. The box score against the Cincinnati Reds will reveal he had four strikeouts with a walk, giving up three hits and a run in his two-inning spring debut.

His reaction afterwards showed the numbers hardly mattered.

"I'm glad this one is out of the way,'' McCarthy said, "so I don't have to hear about it anymore.''

The only real anxiety the entire day, McCarthy said, was his angst with MLB officials. He wasn't medically cleared to pitch until about 90 minutes before the game, and he worried his debut might be postponed.

"They had eight months to do something,'' McCarthy said, "and procrastinated until the last 10 minutes.''

No matter. McCarthy wasn't about to let any administrative work, let alone a line drive that fractured his skull, deter him from continuing his baseball career.

"It wasn't something I was going to hear from somebody else,'' McCarthy said, about the possibility of retirement. "If I was going to retire, I was going to retire. I could be scared of the ball, or do whatever.

"But if I was going to come back, and everything was going to be normal, there was no thinking about it. No dwelling on that. It was an event that sucked, but I just let my subconscious work as much as I could, and the rest kind of melts away.''

McCarthy, pitching last year for the Oakland A's, suffered an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture when he was hit in the head on a line drive by Erick Aybar of the Los Angeles Angels. Amanda, who was at the game, rushed into the clubhouse. He was rushed to the hospital. And soon, was undergoing an emergency two-hour brain surgery, with the family praying he would live. He drifted in and out of consciousness for a week during his recovery, but never felt scared, acting as if it were nothing more serious than a bad hangover.

"He totally moved forward,'' Amanda says, "but it's a little more emotional for me because I had to see all of that. He was asleep for a week in the hospital. He didn't realize everything that was going on. It's a little easier for him to forget.''

Says McCarthy: "I don't doubt that it was much harder on them than me. If something happens, then they're the ones left behind. If I'm dead, I don't know it, I just don't wake up tomorrow.''

McCarthy, feeling wobbly with slight headaches for nearly two months, saw doctors again on Nov. 14, and received medical clearance. His baseball career would continue. This time, with the Diamondbacks, signing a two-year, $15.5 million contract.

"I'm so happy he's back,'' Boston Red Sox closer Joel Hanrahan, one of his closest friends, told USA TODAY Sports. "I was worried. I played golf with him a couple of times in the off-season, and it took a while for him to get back his timing and everything. He felt great, but his timing on his golf swing was all messed up. He felt awkward running.

"It was just weird.''

Diamondbacks teammate Brad Ziegler, who also pitched with McCarthy in Oakland, certainly can relate. Ziegler was hit in the head in 2004 while pitching for the Class A Modesto A's. He spent days in ICU. He never underwent surgery, but the post-injury symptoms were eerily similar.

"It takes time to feel normal,'' Ziegler told USA TODAY Sports. "There are some guys that never come back. But Brandon is real tough mentally. Once you get to the season, after spring training, you realize it's no different. The first time somebody lined a ball up the middle, you say, "All right, that's past me. I'm good to go.'''

McCarthy didn't have that comebacker Wednesday, but insists he has no apprehension, and wants no part of MLB's experimental protective headgear.

"It's not very good,'' he says. "At all. Until the products are better, it's going to be slow moving. It seems like a long ways away.''

And, hopefully, McCarthy says, there may even be a time when the incident is forgotten. He refuses to think about it. He wants others to do the same.

"I just want it to be a footnote,'' McCarthy says. "It happened. It sucked. Now, it's over.''

Follow Bob Nightengale on twitter @BNightengale



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Brandon McCarthy makes triumphant return

More In

test

Real Deals

Flip, shop and save on specials from your favorite retailers in central Ohio.

GET DEALS | COUPONS

Things To Do

THU
18
FRI
19
SAT
20
SUN
21
MON
22
TUE
23
WED
24

CLASSIFIEDS

Classifieds from across Central Ohio
Lancaster
Chillicothe
Newark
Marion
Bucyrus
Mansfield
Zanesville
Coshocton

Weeklies & Shoppers

10TV Headlines

Dispatch Headlines

METROMIX