Starlin Marte pulverized a fourth-inning slider that didn’t do what Brandon McCarthy wanted it to do, but other than that solo home run off the left-field scoreboard the results said the Braves veteran newcomer pitched well again in his second spring start Monday.
Still, McCarthy is his own toughest critic and doesn’t care so much about the results as the work he’s doing in spring training games. So he picked apart his performance after limiting the Pirates to three hits and one run with no walks in 3-2/3 innings of a 7-5 win at Champion Stadium.
“I wasn’t very sharp but was able to get some outs,” McCarthy said after throwing 35 strikes in 54 pitches while facing 13 batters and recording 11 outs, including a double-play grounder between a pair of singles in the third inning. “Some really nice plays behind me. That certainly helped.
“Most of these (spring training starts) are just kind of getting through, fixing little things here and there, nipping and tucking and then finding what issues come up that start, work on the next one. Overall, it’s a decent result for where the stuff actually was.”
He said the slider is the pitch he’s focused on this spring, trying to establish it before the season. It’s not there yet and, in the dry tone he’s known for, he joked that Marte hit an 0-2 slider so far that it nearly hit McCarthy’s car. (The Braves’ player parking lot is beyond a left-field berm).
McCarthy, 34, likes to pitch a little more than most starters early in spring training and worked three innings in his debut last week against the Mets, compared to one or two innings in other Braves starters’ debuts. He gave up one hit and one walk in three scoreless innings versus New York.
He wasn’t content with a mere lack of walks Monday and said, “Staying away from 2-1 counts would be really nice, too. There’s things that in a season would lead to walks, things that lead to bad hitter’s counts that I don’t need to be in. I was a little sloppy with that today, so that I’d like to even stay short of even getting close to walks if I could.”
Nevertheless, the Braves like everything they’re seeing from McCarthy, who has allowed just three hits and one run with one walk and four strikeouts in 6-2/3 innings.
He’s healthy – after missing big parts of the past three seasons with the Dodgers for injuries – and he’s pitching well while setting a fine example for younger Braves, some of whom have sought the 6-foot-7 right-hander advice and found him to be more than willing to share his knowledge.
“He goes about his business the right way every single day and I think that’s the important part to consistency,” said Mike Soroka, 20, one of the Braves’ brightest pitching prospects. “He’ll be the first one to tell you it’s not easy, but just picking up little things you never thought of before: The other day we were talking about discrepancies before four-seamer and two-seam and who you should choose to throw more of which to, based on swing, stance, bat angle.
“So just being able to pick up some of that stuff and be able to watch him execute out there, it goes a long way just to kind of see how it’s done and try to be able to repeat.”