McCarthy not likely to pitch in relief

McCarthy not likely to pitch in relief

CHICAGO -- The Brandon McCarthy bullpen experiment apparently will not be revisited during the 2007 season, judging by comments White Sox general manager Ken Williams recently made on the topic to

According to Williams, the immediate options for one of the team's few untouchables will be limited by what Williams characterizes as McCarthy's expressed desire to start.

"He doesn't like to pitch out of the bullpen, and that leaves us with two alternatives," said Williams. "Either put him in the rotation in Chicago, or put him in the rotation in [Triple-A] Charlotte.

"If a guy's heart isn't in something, you are not going to get the best out of him. So, [pitching out of the bullpen] is not an option."

When pressed again about this issue, Williams stood behind his assessment. The feeling came as something of a surprise for the affable 23-year-old right-hander, who still believes he can benefit personally and help the team more by working a second year out of the bullpen, if that particular slot is the only one available, as opposed to returning to the Minors.

Prior to the 2006 campaign, McCarthy had made 89 career appearances combined in both the Minors and Majors (12 with the White Sox), and 85 of those trips to the mound came as a starter (10 with the White Sox). Those numbers include McCarthy's impressive run with the White Sox in Sept. 2005, when he finished 3-1 with a 1.69 ERA over seven appearances and five starts after his final callup from Charlotte on Aug. 30. That particular stretch included 14 2/3 combined shutout innings thrown during consecutive starts at Texas and in Fenway Park, not to mention battling Minnesota ace Johan Santana pitch-for-pitch over eight innings of one-run baseball on Sept. 22.

But with the offseason acquisition of Javier Vazquez and the return of a starting quartet in Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Jose Contreras and Freddy Garcia, all of whom spearheaded the White Sox to their first World Series championship in close to nine decades, McCarthy's vast talent was primarily directed toward the bullpen. McCarthy was dominant at times, as shown by his 5 1/3 innings of one-hit relief on Aug. 26 against Minnesota, but manager Ozzie Guillen also tried to avoid back-to-back appearances for McCarthy in this new role, and was very careful in how he used the young hurler.

By the end of the season, after McCarthy finished with a 3-6 record and 4.78 ERA over 51 relief stints and a 1-1 mark and 3.86 ERA in two spot starts, it was apparent that McCarthy was a better fit in the rotation.

"I do believe he's better suited as a starter, but I'm not saying he couldn't still be a reliever," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper of McCarthy. "He did a lot of nice things out of the bullpen but floundered at times, too. I give him the benefit of the doubt there."

"I'm most comfortable starting, and that's where I think the team will get the best out of me and see the most success," McCarthy added. "But I'm not putting a gun to anyone's head and saying, 'I have to start or they are not going to get my full effort.' That sort of talk is best left up to Randy Moss. I'm going to pitch my heart out wherever they put me, and I don't think I was beyond awful as a reliever."

McCarthy, a player who made himself frequently accessible to the media, spoke intermittently during the 2006 season in regard to his ongoing adjustment through the daily routine as a first-time reliever. He also ardently worked to figure out how to mix in his slider and changeup, McCarthy's out pitch, during a 12- or 15-pitch outing, as opposed to a normal six- or seven-inning starting stint.

McCarthy has never denied his preference for starting, and it clearly remains his first choice. Yet McCarthy was somewhat taken aback by Williams' plan and feels the general manager's depiction of his pitching desire could come from a few of his previous statements being taken out of context.

"I've said it a million times. I always want to start, and I hope the opportunity is presented to me, because I'm ready to do that now," McCarthy said. "But I would rather be in the big leagues than in Charlotte. At this point of my career, with two years in the Majors, to go back there next year ... it's certainly not something that excites me.

"It is a bit disconcerting and bugs me a little bit, just knowing myself and maybe nobody else does. If given the choice, I would always take starting 100 percent of the time at the big-league level, but I care just as much working out of the bullpen as I do as a starter.

"I always was ready to pitch and tried to throw at my absolute best," McCarthy added. "Anything less would be a disservice to me and the team, and not what I want to do."

Working out of the bullpen would provide a further chance to study the tendencies of Major League hitters, according to McCarthy. He also understands an avenue as a starter solely comes through the trade of one of his friends currently making up the White Sox rotation.

While Williams seemingly ruled out McCarthy as a reliever, he was equally strident when asked about a third option for the right-hander as a starter for another team via trade.

"He's not available," said Williams, who uttered the same sentiment when McCarthy was rumored to be on his way to Washington in a deal involving Alfonso Soriano at the 2006 non-waiver trade deadline.

With baseball's annual Winter Meetings beginning Monday in Orlando, Fla., and free-agent pitchers ranging from Jason Schmidt and Barry Zito to Vicente Padilla and Jeff Suppan figuring to soon find takers, members of the White Sox rotation only will grow in trade value. Williams is more than aware of the coveted luxury he possesses.

Barring a trade making sense for the White Sox in the present and helping in the future, Williams will bring his same starting five to Spring Training in Tucson in February. There's also the chance the organization's top prospect briefly could return to Charlotte.

"I've had conversations [with other teams] concerning all the members of our rotation," Williams said. "Has anything been attractive enough for me to break up what I think is still one [heck] of a rotation and a rested rotation?

"No. We aren't going to do it just to create room because Brandon wants to pitch out of the rotation. That's not the way this works."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.