Late yesterday morning, I elaborated upon the somewhat far-fetched possibility that right-handers Dustin Nippert and Brandon McCarthy could both legitimize their respective candidacies for the coveted No. 5 spot in the Texas Rangers' starting rotation with strong individual performances in Tuesday's day-night doubleheader.
Neither hurler yielded so much as a single inch of ground in the now-developing battle for that spot (southpaw Derek Holland is apparently not under consideration for rotation removal at this time, though he'll certainly pitch his way into the conversation if his ineffectiveness persists much longer), but it was McCarthy's narrative, lengthened by his present-year injury struggles and subsequent mechanical alterations, that proved infinitely more compelling as the Rangers rolled to a much-needed doubleheader sweep.
Boasting a streamlined delivery and rejuvenated confidence, McCarthy logged 6.1 impressive frames of one-run baseball against a Blue Jays lineup that had plated 18 runs just 24 hours earlier, yielding just three hits and two walks during the course of his 95-pitch effort by virtue of his patent ability to get ahead -- and stay ahead -- in the never-ending war between balls and strikes:
[Direct link available here.]
In light of the fact that Trip Somers -- the ever-industrious author of TexasLeaguers.com and co-author of Baseball Time in Arlington -- played a role in the retooling of McCarthy's mechanics to such a degree that McCarthy personally cited Trip as an influencing factor, I could think of no readily accessible person better qualified to discuss the changes in McCarthy's pitching mechanics than Trip, who was kind enough to dispense some must-read thoughts on where McCarthy is right now and where he's headed going forward:
Brandon McCarthy's new mechanics made their major league debut in the second half of yesterday's double header against the Blue Jays. The big shock to some people will be that his new mechanics didn't look all that different from his previous mechanics. The naked eye, though, hides a lot of what is actually happening. The television broadcast showed a great side-by-side synced video of his old and new mechanics. When they slowed it down, some pretty important differences showed up. The biggest visual difference was seen in his glove arm the effect it had on his timing.
McCarthy's glove arm is now a far more active part of his delivery. He uses it to keep his shoulders closed deeper into his delivery, and he uses it to gain some rotational leverage as his shoulders finally do rotate. Before, his glove arm swung his shoulders open early and then played dead. The health benefit, in short, is that better shoulder rotation promotes a healthier arm position through release and during the follow-through.
Another important change is in how McCarthy picks up the baseball. His old way was a very vertical pick-up that featured an inverted arm position -- the inverted 'W'. Now, McCarthy swings his arm down, back, and up. This takes a lot of stress out his pick-up, but if you were watching him closely, you could see that his elbow still gets pretty high and pretty far behind his back. This is something that concerns me in any pitcher's mechanics. McCarthy may not be done making changes, but he's probably at the point where new changes won't be made until the off-season.
McCarthy's timing is going to come and go as he adapts to these new mechanics. His velocity will probably be down for a little while as a result. Another growing pain will probably be random bouts with a loss of command or control. In all, the changes he's made so far have been positive, and you certainly can't argue with the early returns.
Injury Notes: Third baseman Michael Young (strained left hamstring) will undergo an MRI on Wednesday to determine the severity of his ill-timed injury; the Rangers can ill-afford to lose their most productive hitter for a protracted period of time, as his park-adjusted .399 wOBA (the 10th-best mark in the American League) indicates ... Designated hitter Andruw Jones (strained left hamstring) will be re-evaluated later this week after logging several more games of playing time during his current minor league rehab assignment at Double-A Frisco.
Quick Hits: Dustin Nippert, the winner of the doubleheader's first game, attributed his solid six-inning, two-run effort against the Blue Jays to improved command and nothing more ... In an oddly meandering column, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Gil LeBreton debates whether the Rangers should employ out-of-this-world right-hander Neftali Feliz as a starter or a reliever going forward; why Texas would pigeonhole Feliz as a late-inning reliever without even permitting him the opportunity to start games is beyond my comprehension, and that's about all I have to say about that.
Left-hander Derek Holland insists that poor command, not fatigue, was to blame for his horrific abbreviated outing against the Blue Jays on Monday evening ... Former Yankees and Athletics outfielder Kevin Thompson, a lifetime .276/.368/.433 hitter in 3,438 minor league plate appearances has signed a minor league contract with the Rangers and been assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.