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Brandon McCarthy not thinking of upcoming rotation crunch

Brandon McCarthy might be fighting for his spot in the Braves’ rotation.

McCarthy persisted through 5-2/3 innings Friday, allowing two runs in a 9-3 loss to the Padres. But box score notwithstanding, the evening was a struggling, yet gutsy, outing for McCarthy

“I thought I could’ve been better overall,” he said. “First inning I wanted to make sure I kept us in it and get as deep as I could. It was a disappointing start again, but I was happy I was at least able to get us stretched out a little deeper.”

Jose Pirela launched a two-run homer off McCarthy in the first. The Padres would collect seven other hits off the veteran, but timely pitches and his defense avoided further damage.

McCarthy owns a 4.89 ERA, indicative of his roller-coaster campaign. In his past 10 starts, he’s allowed fewer than five hits twice. He’s allowed four or more runs in half those starts.

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He’s also had some strong outings, and he’s been valuable in the clubhouse. Even through his lesser performances, his teammates are quick to back him.

“He’s a joy to play behind,” said shortstop Dansby Swanson, who lauded McCarthy’s preparation.

The Braves are approaching a rotation crunch. Mike Soroka returned from the disabled list Wednesday. Julio Teheran will do so Sunday.

With two off-days next week, the Braves don’t have to rush into a decision. 

Anibal Sanchez has vastly exceeded expectations, and removing him from the rotation with how he’s pitching lately wouldn’t be prudent.

Sean Newcomb and Mike Foltynewicz have been the team’s best pitchers. Leaving McCarthy a logical bullpen option if the team decides against a six-man rotation.

Without mentioning McCarthy by name, manager Brian Snitker said the team will consider shifting a starter to the bullpen.

“That’s something we can look at,” he said. “As we go into next week, we’re going to have to get a plan of what we’re going to do and how we’re going to structure the whole thing. That definitely could be an option, even with the off days and using all of the starters. 

“At any point in time over the course of a week, a guy could go to the pen. That’s a possibility. I don’t know if we’re going to do that. We haven’t really sat down and talked about it yet.” 

It’s not McCarthy’s first rodeo, but he’d be an unknown in the bullpen. He made three relief appearances with the Dodgers last season, but hasn’t regularly served as a reliever since 2006 with the White Sox. 

He said after Friday’s start that pitching for his job hasn’t entered his mind. 

“I passed that line of thinking years ago,” he said. “I don’t see how that helps me or helps us. It doesn’t do anything. My job here is what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to execute. Just go start-by-start and if things change, that’s things that are out of your hand. The more you focus on them, the more it distracts you from really good major-league hitters in the box trying to hit you.”

The Braves could ultimately opt to keep McCarthy in the rotation. The situation is fluid, especially in the next week, and Snitker is confident the answer will present itself.

“Things have a way of working out,” Snitker said. “You’ve got to have a plan. If you don’t, then you get bit, but (in) the next couple days we’ll kind of look at the whole situation and see where we’re at. We’re still waiting to see. 

“We want to get Folty on the mound. We don’t know where we’re at with him yet. Hope we bring Julio off Sunday. That he’s strong and Monday feels good. There’s still some variables and things that we’re going to have to watch play out a little bit too.” 

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