SCOTTSDALE - Amanda McCarthy was a nervous wreck in the stands. Her husband was as calm as could be on the mound.
Brandon McCarthy methodically struck out four in two innings in his first game since a horrific head injury, an impressive return that overshadowed all else in the Diamondbacks' 14-6 loss to the Reds on Wednesday.
McCarthy, signed to a two-year deal by the Diamondbacks as a free agent, gave up one run on three hits. He had not taken the mound in a game since Sept. 5 when he was struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of the Angels' Erick Aybar while pitching for Oakland. McCarthy sustained an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture.
Reds ace Johnny Cueto, in his first start since he was injured early in last year's playoffs, went two innings, allowing four runs, two earned, on five hits with a strikeout and a walk.
Amanda McCarthy, something of a celebrity in her own right with more than 26,000 Twitter followers, had been unusually quiet on her Twitter account as game time approached.
"I was pretty nervous. I was kind of getting shaky," she said. "My girlfriends were trying to distract me and talk to me. I'm not a very nervous person in general when he pitches, but obviously this is a unique situation."
Then she watched her husband strike out Billy Hamilton, Joey Votto and Ryan Ludwick in the first inning.
The only blemish came when rookie center fielder Adam Eaton got a late break on Denis Phipps' deep fly ball off McCarthy leading off the second, and it went over Eaton's head for a triple. Neftali Soto brought Phipps home with a sacrifice fly, then Jack Hannahan was caught looking for McCarthy's fourth strikeout.
"I felt my rhythm was good, my game pace was good," McCarthy said. "All the things I'd like to have even later in spring I felt were good."
The tall right-hander, working to add a changeup to his repertoire, threw 31 pitches, 22 for strikes.
"He was awesome," his wife said. "Did he strike out like a million?"
McCarthy said he had no mental hurdle to clear and felt no more nervous than he did approaching any other spring training debut. He said he refuses to dwell on what was a life-threatening injury or even reflect on it, except when he is asked about it.
"I would assume it becomes less of a hot issue, less questions about it, or at least they'll kind of thin out, which is a good thing," he said. "For me it really can't get more behind me than it is, but just in terms of answering questions about it, it will probably go away. But I think I'll always kind of be 'that' guy, to a point where that's just one of the defining markers."
• Nelson Figueroa relieved McCarthy to start the third and pitched three hitless innings. He walked one and struck out one.
• Aaron Hill was 2 for 3 with two doubles and two RBIs.
• Arizona catcher Miguel Montero was back in the lineup after missing two games with a swollen right thumb.