McCarthy's debut makes for roundabout trip

August 28th, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- This week did not go anywhere near as planned for -- or his family.

McCarthy's family was in Reno, Nevada, this week, a trip that was initially scheduled with the expectation of watching Jake's Triple-A Reno club square off against his brother, Joe, who plays for Triple-A Sacramento in the Giants' organization. Unfortunately for the family, Joe landed on the IL on Aug. 19.

Reno manager Blake Lalli then informed Jake in a Wednesday phone call that he, too, would not be taking part in the Reno-Sacramento showdown this weekend.

"He was asking me if [my brother] was in town and I was like, 'No, but my family is,' and he was like, 'Well, you're going to have some good news for them: You're going to Philly with the team,'" Jake said. "It was a pretty cool moment. I was just hanging out sitting in the hotel bed watching TV -- so it was a pleasant surprise."

As it turns out, McCarthy's family could have traveled a much shorter distance to watch him play. The Scranton, Pa., native made his MLB debut on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park -- approximately a two-hour drive from where he grew up.

McCarthy, the club's No. 23 prospect, said he had plenty of family members and friends flock to the ballpark in South Philadelphia to watch his first big league game. He spent a few moments catching up with some of them behind home plate following Friday's 11-inning loss.

"Just being out in center field and looking around -- looking around at the stadium, looking in the crowd and seeing family and other people that I care about -- it's stuff you dream of," McCarthy said. "I've had that thought in my head since I was a little kid, but it doesn't really compare to when you experience it. I wish I had words for it, but it's something you just can't really describe."

Though McCarthy went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts on Friday, he did work a leadoff walk in the eighth inning with the D-backs trailing by two. He also made an impressive sliding catch on a sinking line drive off the bat of Freddy Galvis with the score tied at 2 in the sixth inning.

"He's an exciting player, we know that," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "As far as playing defense, he came in and made a great break on a ball in a stadium that he probably has dreamed of playing in -- and that didn't affect him -- and he went out there and made a very, very difficult catch look easy."

Lovullo added that, despite the strikeouts, the club has been very encouraged by McCarthy's bat speed this season. The D-backs' skipper said the 24-year-old outfielder reshaped his swing over the last year -- something that has led to improved results at the plate.

McCarthy began the 2021 season with Double-A Amarillo, posting an .822 OPS with six home runs and 17 stolen bases over 35 games before being promoted to Reno on June 21. The jump to the Aces didn't slow McCarthy down one bit, as he put up an .838 OPS with nine homers and 12 steals over 50 games before being called up to the big leagues.

"Baseball's obviously a super hard game. It's been hard at every single level, but you've just got to continue to work," McCarthy said. "I've been fortunate enough to improve on parts of my game to help me get here, but the work really never stops. You never truly arrive. It's not like this game gets any easier as you move up, but I'm really looking forward to that challenge."

The rookie was not in the starting lineup on Saturday, with Ketel Marte returning to his usual spot in center field. Though McCarthy spent the majority of his time with Reno in center, he has plenty of experience at each of the corner outfield spots, as well. He also started playing first base last year, a position at which he made nine starts this season between Amarillo and Reno.

It's unclear exactly how the D-backs will deploy McCarthy over the next five weeks, but he's eager to contribute any way -- and anywhere -- possible.

"I just want to help the team," McCarthy said. "I wanted to come in this year and be better in September than I was in February or March -- and that same thing still applies now. Just need to keep working and growing and learning."