McCarthy seizing chance to be a starter with D-backs

May 15th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Steve Gilbert’s D-backs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

PHOENIX -- If you were projecting the D-backs’ Opening Day roster early in Spring Training, there was a good chance you might not have had on it.

With Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Alek Thomas and Corbin Carroll penciled in as starters and the D-backs having signed free agent outfielders Joc Pederson and Randal Grichuk, it seemed like McCarthy, who was coming off a down year in 2023, would be on the outside looking in.

If there is one thing that McCarthy has learned in his three-plus years in the big leagues, it’s that trying to predict rosters or figure out all the moving parts to them is a fruitless endeavor.

“I don't get paid to play general manager and think, ‘Oh, well if I keep doing this, then I'll be here,’ or ‘This guy got hurt, so now I get a chance,’” McCarthy said. “It’s not a fun way to go through this game. I mean, this game is already so stressful and failure is such a big part of it, why would I clog up my mind with even more nonsense?”

In the end, McCarthy made the Opening Day roster, then injuries to Grichuk and Thomas opened up playing time for him. McCarthy has made the most of it, hitting .291 with five doubles, 11 RBIs, 11 walks and a .774 OPS in 36 games this season.

It’s reminiscent of how McCarthy played in 2022, when he was arguably the team’s best player getting on base and wreaking havoc on them once he did.

But that success didn’t carry over to 2023, when he got off to a miserable start at the plate and was demoted to Triple-A Reno, one of two demotions for him on the year.

“Towards the end of ’22, I was hitting third in the lineup, and I don’t know what my numbers were exactly, but they were good,” McCarthy said. “And you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m going to do this for the next decade, this is just how it’s going to be.’ And the game has other plans.”

By the end of the 2023 season, McCarthy had returned to form, and he took pride in the fact that he was able to finish strong.

The D-backs finished strong as well, and when they qualified for the postseason, McCarthy was on the roster and was having a great batting practice session before Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series in Milwaukee.

He hit three homers into the upper deck. Then he rolled over on the next pitch and felt something in his oblique muscle. His season was over.

“What are you going to do?” McCarthy said. “I was super upset for a week there, but then I decided these were the cards I was dealt and I can either mope around or I can enjoy this cool playoff run experience. I focused on the fact that at least I got to be a part of it and I got to be there and experience it.”

McCarthy has learned from the ups and downs of his career. Just as he tried not to get too low when he struggled last year, he’s not about to take a victory lap because he’s off to a good start this year.

So yes, the numbers are better, but he can’t tell you exactly what they are because they are not his focus.

“I look at it like I’m probably going to get three or four at-bats tonight and play right field,” McCarthy said. “So let’s try to make that pitcher work, be a pain in the butt on the bases and play good defense. And then let’s see where that takes me at the end of the night, and if it doesn’t look good, at least I know it wasn’t for a lack of preparation and effort. It’s a simpler approach, and it’s a lot easier to play 162 games like that.”