CLEVELAND -- Brandon McCarthy was on his way out to throw a bullpen for the Arizona Diamondbacks the other day when he learned his next real pitch would be thrown for the New York Yankees, who are desperate for help in their injury-depleted starting rotation.
If that wasn't pressure enough, now McCarthy -- who makes his first start as a Yankee tonight against the Indians at Progressive Field -- is being asked to do something few Yankees pitchers have been asked to do this year. Namely, follow a Masahiro Tanaka loss with a solid outing, and preferably, a win.
McCarthy, who turned 31 on Monday, is the definition of the word journeyman, having already pitched for four different teams in a nine-year career. He is 45-60 with a 4.21 ERA, and the Diamondbacks gave up on him when his record was 3-10, his ERA 5.01 in 18 starts this season.
Now, the Yankees are asking him to be better, a lot better, than that, because the way things stand, he is going to be a regular part of this rotation for the rest of the season. Or, at least until GM Brian Cashman can find something better.
New York Yankees
"He’s a ground ball guy," Joe Girardi said. "Sometimes you can have bad luck with ground balls, and ground balls getting through infields. But we feel he has a lot to offer us and that’s why we went to get him."
The problem was, this year a lot of his ground balls left the ballpark; he had allowed 15 home runs as a Diamondback, and now he moves to Yankee Stadium, which has been known to allow home runs, especially to left-handed hitters, of which the right-handed McCarthy is sure to see plenty.
"Arizona can be a home run park, too," Girardi said. "Lately his sinker has been very good. We know the ability’s there, it’s just getting it out."
Obviously, the Yankees prefer to look at McCarthy's 2011 and 2012 seasons for the Oakland A's, when he went 9-9 and 8-6, respectively, with ERAs of 3.32 and 3.24. McCarthy, who arrived in the clubhouse Tuesday afternoon, seemed excited for the opportunity to restart his career.
“It’s the Yankees," he said. "It’s a team that’s in contention. It’s a team that’s known for winning. There really is no other answer other than, it’s the Yankees. To be a part of that and get to say that I played here and contributed to something, it’s pretty special.”
For his part, McCarthy said he has pitched better this year than his numbers might indicate.
"I pay a lot of attention to sabermetrics, so I understand that there’s a lot of disparity between what I’ve done and what should be happening," he said. "And that’s actually how it’s felt pitching. I know there’s been mistake pitches here and there that get hurt, but that’s to be expected. The last few times out have been more positive seeing a change in what I’ve been doing, and that’s been good. The goal now is to kind of carry that through the second half of the season.”
Before Tuesday night's loss with Tanaka on the mound, the Yankees' goals for McCarthy were modest: Take the ball every five days, give them a solid six to seven innings, and take some of the workload off the shoulders of their beleaguered bullpen.
"It would help us tremendously if he can do that,": Girardi said. "It would help our bullpen. It would help us out a lot. And that’s one of the other reasons we went and got him, because we felt he could give us distance."
But now, they need more than distance from McCarthy. After suffering the rare indignity of a Tanaka loss, and facing the possibility that the next two days in Cleveland could undo all the good they accomplished last week in Minneapolis, the Yankees need something more.
They need a win.
Question: How many games do you think Brandon McCarthy will win for the Yankees?
On deck: Game 3 of this four-game series, the 6-foot-7 McCarthy facing RHP Josh Tomlin (5-6, 4.11), first pitch at 7:05 p.m. The clubhouse opens at 3:35 p.m., and I'll be there with the lineups and all the pregame news, including whether Carlos Beltran will be well enough to return to the lineup, so drop in during the afternoon.