This is The Tribune Mailbag, a series in which athletes answer questions directly sent from our readers. Past editions have featured athletes from all corners of the sports world, such as Megan Rapinoe, Brian Scalabrine and even The Captain himself.
Next up, we’re excited to welcome a right-handed pitcher with rare control and an even rarer Twitter presence. Take it away, Brandon McCarthy.
What was Tommy John surgery like? – Andrew
I was asleep, so I don’t know. I assume it was gross.
Who was your favorite teammate when you played for the Yankees? – Haley
Shane Greene. I think someone in the minors told him, “When you get to the big leagues, be seen and not heard,” and he took that as literally as possible. He wasn’t just quiet, he was offensively silent. After awhile I got used to it. Because he never said anything at all, he never said anything that bugged me. I thought that was great.
I’ve heard it said by announcers that a pitcher succeeded by “keeping the batters (and ball) in the big part of the park,” meaning from LCF to RCF. I understand what that means and why it would be beneficial to a pitcher, but I can’t figure out how you would go about doing it. Could you illuminate me? – Mike
Sometimes it’s as simple as playing to the dimensions of a park. The Green Monster in Fenway makes it tough to pitch inside to righties or away to lefties. Very little room for error as a pitcher and easier for a hitter to have a successful result without making great contact. In other stadiums, I’d say it’s a function of pitching on the edges or just off the plate so that a hitter can’t successfully pull the ball with power. Actually, this would be easier to describe in person. I’m free next Friday at 3 if you want to get coffee and go over it?
Nevermind, my wife says I have something to do, so I can’t make it. Hope this helped.
Who’s your favorite athlete follow on Twitter? Non-athlete? – Bryan
My ex-teammate Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) is very funny so I’ll say him. There are probably others, but Shawshank is on TBS again so to be honest, I’m pretty much phoning this in.
Non-athlete is Bridger Winegar (@bridger_w). He writes for a television show. That’s all the information I’ll give you because honestly, what’s in it for me?
If you could go back in time and take back one pitch you threw, which would it be and why? – Sal
Probably the one that was hit back at my head and required lifesaving brain surgery. If you still need to know why, please reread the previous sentence.
I’m a big Dodger fan. Have you had a chance to sit down and talk with Sandy Koufax at all since joining the team? What can you share about that experience? – David
First off, he looks about 25 years younger than he is, so my first thought was to ask him about his skin care regimen. Deciding that was too personal, I said something like, “Crazy weather we’re having,” because it was overcast in Arizona. He might have said something in response, but I forget what it was, and honestly it’s not relevant to my story.
Sensing that he was dealing with a social dunce, he asked me about my curveball grip. I showed him, and he quickly showed me a much better way to hold it. My instincts to talk about the weather almost kicked in again before he continued talking about how important the grip is and how he used to hold his depending on what type of curveball he wanted to throw. We talked about the curveball for about half an hour even though I was cold, because it was overcast in Arizona. It will forever be one of my favorite career experiences.
Side note: Won a Casio electric keyboard at my holiday party and I don’t play. Would you or your wife like to buy it off me for a discounted price? – David
Has there been a guy you played against who turned out to be totally different than you expected once you ended up on a team together? – Ethan
Howie Kendrick had given me fits throughout my career, so when I joined the Dodgers I expected him to be a mouth-breathing, drooling cretin, hellbent on ruining my dreams. Sadly, he turned out to be very nice.
By your estimation, what percentage of bean balls are purposeful versus just a case of the pitcher losing control of the ball? – Breanne
I don’t know, but I do have a funny story that won’t answer your question at all.
I’ve hit a few guys on purpose and it’s not a big deal. Usually they rub their hip, elbow or whatever I’ve hit and then run to first in a manly fashion to give off the impression that I didn’t hurt them. But once, I tried to hit a guy and missed. A few years later, I met that player and told him that I had tried to hit him. He seemed really taken aback by this. He demanded to know why I had done that. I let him know that I had no valid reason other than I felt like it. He was genuinely hurt by this and told me, “You’re an asshole,” before storming off in a tizzy.
So now I don’t hit people on purpose anymore. I just wait until I see guys who’ve had a few drinks in a social setting and tell them I wanted to hit them. I’m the passive-aggressive Nolan Ryan.
Dear McCarthy, when you were in a cast, how did using the toilet go? – Doe
It went fine, weirdo.
What’s your favorite opposing ball park to play in and why? – Brett
The ones I typically pitch well in I like. I’m able to find the charm and quaint features in them. I see them as magisterial beauties where somehow the air smells cleaner and the sun shines brighter. Wonderful places those are.
Then there’s Angels Stadium. I’ve thrown a 13-hitter there and committed a number of other pitching atrocities. I now think it has all the charm of a family court’s waiting area and smells like a frat house basement.
How close is MLB to having a usable padded cap for pitchers? Existing versions seem rather unpopular. Also, thank you for being a good Athletic and even better Twitterer. – Adam
I’ve seen some encouraging things recently, but it’s too hard to put a timeline on anything being completely game-ready. Considering we have a car driving around Mars doing science experiments on its own, you’d think this process would move faster, but it hasn’t.
Before the fateful night in San Diego, you were having an odd season. Granted I’m talking about a small sample size of four starts, but your strikeout rate was way up and your velo was up a tick. However, every fly ball seemed to leave the park. What were your thoughts on your performance before the injury? – Tom
I wish I had a funny or better answer to this question other than “I don’t know,” but I don’t. I forgot to pack my sinker when I came to spring training and I think I was fighting against that. I was unable to get ground balls so I had to throw more four-seamers, leading to more strikeouts and more fly balls. Sample size for the season was so small and I was hurt for two of the games, so I choose to not look at last season as much of anything.
If you could assemble your dream starting rotation, who would be in it? – Phil
Pedro, Johnson, Gibson, Kershaw, Halladay.
I’m sure you spend a lot of time with the guys on the pitching rotation. But who’s been your favorite, or the most interesting guy, to have a locker next to? – Michelle
Paul Goldschmidt. He was hard-working, responsible, respectful to others, his locker was immaculate and he had a good sense of humor. It was terrible.
There’s obviously the usual gear guys keep in their lockers — but other than that stuff, what would someone be surprised to find in a deep dive of your cubby? – Tristan
By “usual gear” I assume you mean our cleats, gloves and vintage pornography. That stuff piles up quickly (old paper was so much thicker than the new flimsy stuff) so there isn’t room for much else.