It has been a season of adjustments so far for Colorado Rockies infielder Ryan McMahon. He also knows that more adjustments are likely coming as the season goes along.
Rumored to be “penciled in” as the starting first baseman for the Rockies heading into spring training, things seemed to change when Colorado re-signed Carlos Gonzalez in mid-March. That signing bolstered Colorado’s outfield and moved Ian Desmond back to a primary role at first base. McMahon still made his first-ever Opening Day roster, but it was in a backup role.
After struggling to find playing time and executing when he did get a chance at the plate, McMahon was sent to Triple-A on May 1. Before being sent to Albuquerque, McMahon logged a .180/.317/.200 slash line with three RBI in 60 plate appearances.
Speaking to me in an exclusive interview before the Rockies took on the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday at Coors Field, the 24-year-old McMahon acknowledged that there was some frustration earlier in the season but now has a better grasp of the business of baseball and his role in it.
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“Earlier, because I didn’t have an understanding about how this whole thing works,” McMahon said about his frustration with the number of at-bats he was seeing. “I had played every day my whole career. Now, having a better understanding of the game and how you might start the game on the bench but then you could be in there for half of the game. You could be in there for five innings. I have a better understanding of how things work from the managerial side and more just the team side, honestly, that has helped me go with the flow and just be ready to play.”
Heading into Saturday’s game, McMahon had seen playing time in 34 games this season, totaling 69 at-bats. That might be considered nice for some, but McMahon has seen two or more at-bats in just half (17) of those games. Four of those came in late May as McMahon was called up to help fill in for DJ LeMahieu while he was on the disabled list with a thumb injury.
The recent time in Albuquerque helped McMahon, who batted .191 in April but boosted that to .333 in 18 May at-bats.
But now, with LeMahieu back, McMahon shifts once again to the bench, filling in where and when needed at first, second or third base.
How does he stay ready?
“I’m going to keep doing the same thing I’ve been doing,” McMahon said. “I kind of knew coming into this that a changing of roles could happen. I think I have a better understanding of how to go about it from being up here before. I’m going to try to roll with it and try to contribute.
“I find something that works for me in whatever role that might be. I work closely with the hitting coaches and try to stay ready. You have to just stay ready. God forbid, someone in the game gets hurt, you have to stay ready. It’s part of the game.”
Colorado manager Bud Black believes McMahon will play a key role for the Rockies moving forward and expects to see his at-bats build.
"“Mac (McMahon) had some consistent playing time when DJ was out and we’ll get him in there moving forward at first, at second and at third and hopefully more consistent at-bats will help his production,” Black told Rox Pile and other members of the media on Saturday afternoon. “I think Mac is playing a little freer now and hopefully that continues. The at-bats are better.”"
McMahon says he is constantly learning from Nolan Arenado, Desmond and LeMahieu. However, those are his teammates. What is he learning from other Major League players when he watches them in person or on television? Who is he watching in particular?
“It’s all the guys you would think of. I watch the whole game. I watch everyone,” McMahon said. “When I’m watching a game, say I see a guy like (Paul) Goldschmidt miss a pitch that he should hit, I watch how he handles himself so that if he gets that pitch again, he’s not going to miss it again. He’s not thinking, ‘I should’ve hit that.’ I look for those little subtle things because it’s the little things that make a big difference in this game.”