Brandon McCarthy isn’t rushing back from Tommy John surgery, but he isn’t taking his time either.

Brandon McCarthy

Brandon McCarthy signs a baseball for a fan at the Dodgers’ annual FanFest Saturday at Dodger Stadium. (Keith Birmingham/Staff photographer)

Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said Saturday that he hasn’t had any setbacks in his throwing program as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. He recently began throwing lightly off a mound and is targeting a return late in the first half of the season.

“My ultimate goal is to make a start or two before the All-Star break,” McCarthy said. “If it doesn’t happen that’s fine, I’m mentally prepared for that. I want to use that as our foundation of ‘this is where I need to get to.’ ”

McCarthy, who turns 33 in July, isn’t thinking long-term.

“I’ve got two and a half years left here,” he said, referring to a contract that expires after the 2018 season. “I’m beholden to the Dodgers right now and that’s it. If I don’t play again after the Dodgers because I came back too soon here, then it was completely worth it. That’s been my thinking going into this: Let’s get back as soon as we can now, safely, and not sit around and wait for months afterwards and play it safe the way a younger guy would.”

Spring training will be a good gauge of his progress. McCarthy said he’ll be “right on the verge” of facing live hitters at the end of camp if he doesn’t have any setbacks between now and then.

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.