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Improved mechanics benefiting McCarthy

MLB.com @kengurnick

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Physically and mentally, Brandon McCarthy is healthy and a pitcher again, making a two-inning Cactus League debut during a 15-3 loss to the D-backs on Friday that Dodgers manager Dave Roberts agreed was "certainly a step forward and something to build on."

McCarthy's elbow, which had the Tommy John treatment nearly two years ago, is intact. So is his psyche, having battled through the yips last year while on the comeback trail.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Physically and mentally, Brandon McCarthy is healthy and a pitcher again, making a two-inning Cactus League debut during a 15-3 loss to the D-backs on Friday that Dodgers manager Dave Roberts agreed was "certainly a step forward and something to build on."

McCarthy's elbow, which had the Tommy John treatment nearly two years ago, is intact. So is his psyche, having battled through the yips last year while on the comeback trail.

McCarthy allowed a two-run homer to former teammate Paul Goldschmidt, who does that routinely to Dodgers pitchers, but retired the final five batters he faced and threw another inning in the bullpen as he bids to reclaim his spot in the Dodgers' starting rotation.

"It was good just getting back in a game, back in game situations," said McCarthy. "I had a little trouble controlling movement early, the pitchers were moving a lot. The ball to Goldy started where I wanted and just shot across the zone. The second inning, I was a little more aware of it and changed the starting points to drive the ball where it needed to be.

"It was good to make those adjustments. In the bullpen [afterward], I just hammered home what I wanted to do. I'd rather not give up the home run there, but that's a pitch in a normal situation I wouldn't throw. I want to make sure I work on that and he wants to work on his home runs, I guess. He's just a pain. I think every team thinks he has a bias against them. It's pretty true."

McCarthy has been open about last year's struggles, something Roberts called "taking ownership," but said the linkage between mechanical flaws and mental ones has been resolved through improved mechanics. McCarthy talks about last year, but said he doesn't think about it.

"It's a defeating mindset if you're thinking about it at all. Like, what are you focused on?" McCarthy said. "You've got four months and all of that should just fall away. It's spring, here's what I want to do and just go do them."

McCarthy was so open about his issues he marveled through social media during the World Series about Cubs pitcher Jon Lester, whose mental block about pickoff throws is well documented.

"I was astounded," McCarthy said, explaining the public discussion. "There's only so much hiding you can do. It's not that it's therapeutic, it's impressive knowing what he's doing. It's not a fun thing to have in your head and to power through the way he did is genuinely impressive. I'm not afraid to say what people already know."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Brandon McCarthy