McCarthy struggles in audition for relief role

McCarthy struggles in audition for relief role

SAN FRANCISCO -- Some experiments work, some don't.

Turning Brandon McCarthy into a relief pitcher one week before the start of the National League Division Series didn't work, as his first bullpen outing in nine years Friday night turned into a six-batter, six-run disaster and a 9-3 loss to the Giants.

The result put the Dodgers on the brink of elimination for home-field advantage in the NLDS and McCarthy on the brink of being left off the roster for what would be his first postseason, after spending 1 1/2 years coming back from Tommy John surgery.

Given an inning to warm up and a clean inning to start, McCarthy walked Angel Pagan on four pitches. Brandon Crawford and Kelby Tomlinson singled to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Conor Gillaspie doubled home two, opposing pitcher Madison Bumgarner doubled in two and pinch-hitter Denard Span singled.

And McCarthy's night was over.

"They just hit everything I threw," said McCarthy. "I don't have, other than angry, it was so fast and so violent I don't know what emotions to take. They just hit everything."

McCarthy not only has come back from Tommy John surgery, but also a case of the yips, when he lost command. After another stint on the disabled list to regroup, McCarthy returned five days earlier and allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings, giving him and the club hope that he might become an October option.

So, he joined Julio Urias, Ross Stripling and Brett Anderson in the starter-turned-reliever competition, with the winner also likely to become the leading candidate to be the fourth starter if the Dodgers use one.

"I certainly hope so," McCarthy said when asked if he felt he was still in the running. "Auditioning as a starter is hard to do in the sixth inning. Still, you're trying to earn a spot, and like in Spring Training you get innings when you can."

McCarthy said the accelerated in-game warmup for a reliever is much different for a pitcher "very used to the routine of a starter."

"But you still have to execute," he said. "There's a little different feeling and emotion warming up as the game is going on. It's different, but not something I can't get past."

Manager Dave Roberts didn't exactly rule McCarthy out going forward, but hinted that way.

"It's a tall order," he said of the transition. "As a veteran player, routine oriented, it was something different. You don't want to look too deep into one outing. I don't know with two days left in the season how it's going to play out, but I appreciate the care and the buy-in. I do feel for Brandon. Ideally, he would have had another start coming off the other start that was very good. But the situation we're at, the guys we've got to get ready for the postseason, for him to take the ball in that capacity coming out of the 'pen says a lot about his character. I feel for him."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.