OAKLAND, Calif. -- Brandon McCarthy's hair is growing back fast and that big scar on the right side of his head is hardly noticeable anymore.
The Oakland Athletics pitcher feels nearly normal again just more than three weeks after undergoing brain surgery following a frightening injury in which a line drive off the bat of the Angels' Erick Aybar struck him Sept. 5.
So good, in fact, doctors have cleared him to play light catch Saturday -- a big deal in his recovery and for his immense boredom.
Not once has he lost his sense of humour through the scary ordeal that the club referred to as "life-threatening" early on post-surgery.
"I have really fast growing hair," McCarthy said. "I'm already at the point now that I don't know what to do with it. Do I shave it again and keep showing off the scar? I'm going to have to make a decision soon. I've never shaved my head before. Now with the scar, I can walk around San Francisco and look tough."
McCarthy stepped back on the field Friday night for the first time since his frightening injury to accept the A's nomination for the Roberto Clemente Award, accompanied by wife, Amanda. He was a bit emotional in the dugout earlier given the outpouring of support from fans, players and teams around baseball surrounding the first trying, testing moment in his life, he said.
He received a warm ovation from the sparse Coliseum crowd.
"I think it's really kind of what I need," said McCarthy, who has been practicing his mechanics in his living room. "Get my mind off everything, just kind of get back to doing stuff, just the sort of mental stimulation of it."
McCarthy attended the series opener with Seattle on Friday night, exactly six months to the day after he was Oakland's opening day starter against the Mariners in Tokyo.
He went 8-6 with a 3.24 ERA this year in his sixth big league season and second with the A's. McCarthy was 9-9 with a 3.32 ERA last season.
The pitcher expects his off-season throwing program to be like any other this winter, while monitoring himself for concussion symptoms.
"There are times when I get a little mildly cloudy, but it's not even something I would describe as being even annoying," he said. "It's the kind of feeling you have if you've had three drinks and are not quite sharp, I guess."
He spends the off-season in Dallas.
"Normal," McCarthy said of what's next. "I'm just starting to go into atrophy here and boredom, so I've got to do something physically to get the blood going again," McCarthy said. "And then when it gets into the off-season, a lot of it is just based on concussion symptoms and if I get headaches or something or a little dizzy doing something, then just scale back. I think you just kind of push against the wall until you find out what your body's going to do and what it can get through, and then just sort of resume as normal."
The 29-year-old McCarthy sustained an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture on the play. A few days later, he was back on Twitter cracking jokes.
"It wasn't like it was a surreal thing. When it happened I was aware of what happened for the most part," he said. "Everything kind of after is not fun ... but it was kind of something we had to get through. More than anything, I was really thirsty. I was on a salt drip for a few days, which is big for swelling on the brain. I couldn't drink water, I couldn't drink anything. Really, that's the one thing I remember from this whole thing, being unbelievably thirsty for about four days."
While McCarthy can become a free agent after the season, he said he has plenty of things on his mind to worry too much about his baseball future. Though he made it clear he would love to stay put with the A's.
He credits the medical staff, general manager Billy Beane, assistant GM David Forst and so many others for their support through his injury.
"I can't thank everybody enough," McCarthy said. "The way the front office has handled it is beyond first class. I'd definitely say I'd like to get back here."