In right-hander Brandon McCarthy's mind, there are only two acceptable directions for the D-backs to move this season -- up or forward.
Regardless of the wording, McCarthy said there is no reason the D-backs shouldn't improve upon their 2013 finish, which saw Arizona finish .500 for the second straight season. Along with returning National League MVP Award runner-up Paul Goldschmidt at first base, the D-backs this offseason added slugger Mark Trumbo, right-hander Bronson Arroyo and potential closer Addison Reed.
"Everything this year has been great so far," said McCarthy, who took some time prior to Wednesday's Cactus League game against the Royals to field questions from fans via social media and a live video stream in the Edward Jones Chatting Cage. "There's a good vibe in the clubhouse. We've kind of changed our mentality as an organization, that's all for the better. The talent is still here, and there's more talent that's come in. I can't see us going anywhere but forward -- or up, however you wanna look at it."
While McCarthy and the D-backs have their long-term sights set on playing deeper into the fall this year, their season will start a bit earlier than usual this spring. Arizona is set to open the Major League Baseball season against the Dodgers on March 22 when the two clubs meet in Australia.
The division rivals will play a pair of games before returning to the United States to continue their exhibition schedules and, eventually, resume the big league season. Though McCarthy isn't scheduled to start one of the two games abroad, the 30-year-old righty is still looking forward to the experience.
"I'm just looking forward to seeing another place. I know that sounds really cliché, but it's something we don't get to do a lot during the season," McCarthy said. "It's all American cities -- you get very used to the American way of life. That's why offseason travel is great, you get to go somewhere you've never been before. But now you get to experience that with baseball, so you can get out, walk around and see a different way of life, a different culture."
McCarthy has had his share of experiencing different places stateside, as well, during his eight big league seasons. After starting his career with two seasons on the South Side of Chicago with the White Sox from 2005-06, McCarthy played three seasons for the Rangers (2007-09) and spent two years with the Athletics (2011-12) before debuting with the D-backs last season.
Through all the moving around, McCarthy has called numerous states home, but he said that Arizona currently holds that title.
"That's where all our stuff is, and our dog is there. My wife is there. So I find that where my stuff usually is, is where I consider home," McCarthy said. "In the meantime, where our mortgage is and where our stuff is, that's Arizona. So that's home for us right now."
Now having a year under his belt with the D-backs, McCarthy is hoping to improve on a subpar season last year. The righty struggled to a 5-11 record and 4.53 ERA over 22 starts in his debut season with the D-backs, but is 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA over nine innings through two starts this spring.
"I've felt really good so far. Last year was just a blocked punt right from the beginning. Coming off the year before [2012, when he was struck in the head by a line drive], I just never got back to being myself," McCarthy said. "Mentally, I wasn't there. It was just very hard to move forward, when you're trying as hard as you can to not move backwards. At my best, I was staying level, and at my worst, I was regressing."
Like his expectations for the team, however, McCarthy hopes to move forward -- or up -- in 2014.
As an organization, the D-backs are hoping to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011, but it won't be an easy task in the NL West. On top of competing with the defending division-champion Dodgers, McCarthy expects a battle from the rival Giants, as well as the resurgent Rockies and Padres.
"Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses, and it's tough to predict how that will play out as the season goes on," McCarthy said. "It's going to be a really stacked division. I don't think it's going to be an easy title for anybody to win."