Hudson, McCarthy at crossroads while on DL
D-backs pitchers face tough return from career-threatening injuries
PHOENIX -- The D-backs are no strangers to adversity and this week the vagaries of life once again overshadowed baseball at Chase Field.
Two of their young pitchers -- Brandon McCarthy and Daniel Hudson -- are facing career-threatening injuries that place the ephemeral nature of who wins or loses firmly on the back burner.
"Their safety and their lives are No. 1 and always will be," said D-backs manager Kirk Gibson before his club dropped a 6-2 decision to the Giants. "It's not even close. It's way No. 1. That's just common sense. We're never going to jeopardize anybody."
Hudson again tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow during a Minor League rehab start last week and is facing Tommy John surgery for the second time in less than a year. In the hours after receiving the news, Hudson said it was 50-50 whether he'd undergo the surgery or quit.
"I would be lying if I didn't say I thought about it. I didn't know if I could mentally go through the 12 months of rehab again," Hudson said on Sunday. "People have it way worse than me so in the end I figured that if I didn't get it done, if I didn't at least try, I couldn't look at myself in the mirror five years from now."
Hudson will travel to Birmingham, Ala., and visit with noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews this week for a second opinion. "If he says that's what we need to do then we're going to stay there, and within a couple of days of when I see him, have it done there."
McCarthy is another story. He's currently on the disabled list with chronic irritation in his right shoulder. But that's not the half of it. While pitching for the A's late last season, he was hit in the side of the head with a line drive and subsequently had surgery to relieve bleeding in the brain.
Everything seemed to be doing fine until this past Monday when McCarthy was having dinner with his wife and blacked out at the table. The next thing he knew, he was taken to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale and was told he had a seizure related to the brain bruise suffered during the on-field incident.
He'll be taking anti-seizure medication for the foreseeable future.
"There was always a chance of it happening," McCarthy said. "Any time you have a bruise on your brain it doesn't actually ever heal, which always leaves you somewhat vulnerable to [a seizure]. We knew the possibility was there and we hoped we had gotten past that."
Which begs this question: How dangerous is it for McCarthy to go back out on the field? Once having a concussion, a person is more susceptible to the next one and its evil twin, post-concussion syndrome. Just ask Cardinals manager and former catcher Mike Matheny, who has said he probably had dozens of concussions and finally had to quit because of the side effects.
Matheny spent a year walking around in a fog. In McCarthy's case, the possibility of a concussion is compounded by the possibility of seizure. Forget about being smacked in the head again by a baseball. Any clip to the head -- an elbow, a knee while covering first base -- could have detrimental or even deadly overtones.
A CT scan at Mayo this past week showed a shadow on McCarthy's brain that doctors first thought was internal bleeding. The possibility of additional surgery loomed. Doctors decided against it.
But McCarthy said he's comfortable with the prognosis and will continue his rehab from the shoulder injury.
"It's a new thing to deal with, I guess, but it doesn't change me as a pitcher or what I do or how I go about my business," he said. "This just might be something else I have to deal with at some point. There's no point in really changing anything.
"Of course, I'm concerned about it. To be hit in the head, that stinks. But I'm not in any more risk than anyone else. Once it heals it heals. As a general rule, don't get hit in the head. But because I've been hit there, it's not that I'm more susceptible to anything."
If McCarthy sounds like he may be in denial, he will be watched closely, Gibson said.
"When you get hit in the head there's a huge fear that it will happen again and is he OK?" the Arizona manager said. "They're on it and he certainly won't pitch if he's not."
The D-backs have had more than their share of grief as an organization. Ken Kendrick, their managing general partner, and Derrick Hall, their president, are in various stages of recovery and survival from prostate cancer. Hall, who is tested regularly, is only weeks away from his quarterly blood test.
The 26-year-old wife of an employee recently passed away after a one-year battle with skin cancer.
"That was devastating to the whole organization," Hall said.
Injuries are one thing, but a pair of young D-backs are facing critical choices. Hudson is just 26. McCarthy is 29. They are at the crossroads. Life overshadows baseball and you deal with it.
"Look at [the shooting] that happened in California the other day," Gibson said. "I know one of the nurses who took care of the girl who died today. You might say, how does she do it? Because we're strong. We have to be strong. Not just me, not just you, all of us. When people are down and in time of need, then you have to be there and support them.
"That's what we do."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.