New York’s Emergent Ace Pitcher to Be Free Agent in the Off-Season
Some players are built for the bright lights and big city. Not all of them wear fur coats like Joe Namath or have their own candy bar like Reggie Jackson. Some are just smart, competitive players who thrive under the pressure that playing for the Yankees naturally brings.
Brandon McCarthy is one of those players, and he wants to keep what he’s found in New York next season and beyond.
McCarthy, who arrived in the Bronx via a trade with Arizona last month, has emerged as the ace of the Yankees’ staff in place of the injured Masahiro Tanaka, stabilizing the battered starting rotation in the midst of a playoff push.
On Thursday, McCarthy turned in his finest performance since donning the pinstripes, suffocating the Houston Astros with a complete-game shutout, striking out eight without issuing a walk. He lowered his Yankee ERA to 1.90 with the victory, inching the team closer to a .500 record at home this season (30-31).
Overall, McCarthy has dazzled in 52 innings of work, allowing 52 hits, walking only seven, and striking out 51. The veteran 31-year-old has more than filled Tanaka’s imposing footprint, and on Wednesday he said he is very interested in re-signing with the team this off-season, when he’ll be a free agent.
“Yeah,” McCarthy immediately nodded when asked about re-signing. “There wouldn’t be a question in my mind about that. I feel like it’s a great fit for me here. The guys here have been fantastic, everybody associated with the club. And it’s living in New York—there’s so many great aspects.
Wednesday’s gem marked the Yankees’ second complete-game shutout of the season. McCarthy’s dominance was so complete that the game took only 2:07, the shortest nine-inning Yankee home game since 1996.
Afterward, he was congratulated by his grateful teammates, who, he said, aren’t quite what he had pictured when he arrived.
“There’s less attitudes in the locker room than what you’d expect,” he said. “From the outside, you see big names and big money, and you assume it’s just a room full of guys who would rather be smoking cigars at the yacht club. And it’s the complete opposite. It’s a bunch of guys that are really professional, do all their work, and work at their own pace, and that’s been a nice thing to be a part of.”
Considering that McCarthy was acquired for independent league signing Vidal Nuño, he rates as a first-class pickup. After two excellent seasons in Oakland, he was struggling in Arizona, and so was available on the cheap. But the Yankees recognized greatness in him from the start, said manager Joe Girardi.
“We knew he was a better pitcher than his numbers indicated,” Girardi said. “We’d seen it firsthand. We knew he had the ability to pitch, we knew he had a good fastball, a good cutter, a good curveball, so it’s really worked out and he’s thrown the ball great for us.”
If Tanaka can return from his injury, the two pitchers could provide a formidable one-two punch atop a postseason rotation—if the Yankees can hit enough to make a playoff run.
The weak lineup, not the pitching, has been the real problem all year, and the hitters know it. Before Thursday’s game, a group of them held an informal meeting to discuss how they can turn things around, how they need to play with more energy—and above all, how they need to start hitting.
“Just some of the position players got together and said enough is enough,” third baseman Chase Headley said.
It might prove too late for this season. But even if 2014 is lost, in McCarthy, the Yankees may have found a building block for 2015 and beyond.