McLain slowed by sore oblique; MRI shows no strain

February 20th, 2024

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Oblique injuries can be a problematic early camp issue for many players, but when second baseman told the Reds he felt soreness in his right side after a recent batting practice, it set off caution alarms.

McLain had missed the final month of his 2023 rookie season because of a right oblique strain.

"I was going at it too hard too early," McLain said on Tuesday. "I didn’t want to go through that again, so I told them it was bothering me. I took the foot off the gas for a couple days."

McLain underwent an MRI exam on Monday, and it at least provided some optimism. The images showed no new strain in the oblique and that his old injury had healed.

"Which is great news," manager David Bell said. "But it doesn't change the fact that he had a symptom, so we'll back him down for five to seven days and treat it and [do] a couple other protocols, and then hopefully get them back out there, back on track."

The expectation is that McLain still has plenty of time to be ready for Opening Day. He will miss some early Cactus League games, however.

"This next five days will be really important [to] let that irritation go away, and we'll just start building him back up," Bell said.

McLain, 24, was a key rookie contributor during Cincinnati's surprise run to contention in 2023. He batted .290 with a 129 OPS+, 16 home runs, 50 RBIs and 14 steals in 89 games while playing second base and shortstop.

McLain admitted to taking too many swings in batting practice in the early days of camp, and he noticed the soreness was lingering.

McLain has since spoken to other players who have dealt with oblique injuries about how to manage them. That included a new teammate, reliever .

"Moving forward, I’ll have a better plan to not aggravate it, especially through the long course of the season," McLain said. "I just got ahead of myself. I felt good for a while over the course of the offseason. I was just doing too much every single day. With obliques, they’re touchy. You’ve got to watch them closely."

McLain expected to take fewer BP swings in camp and before games, and he will stress quality swings over quantity.

"I think it was too early for the amount of workload I was doing," he said. "So I could have held off a week or two before I got to where I was at. And the plan was originally I was going to use spring as a little bit of a build-up as well, because I was out here early. Just kind of going at it, and it happened.”

Once cleared by the medical staff in the offseason, McLain took swings but didn't have a recurrence of the issue.

"Looking back on it, there’s nothing that’s going to match the intensity of me hitting in the cage versus me hitting live," McLain said. "That’s not the same as BP swings. I’ve got to be smarter about it moving forward. Luckily, it looks like we avoided something. I’ll take some days off and get back at it."

The Reds made having infield depth an offseason priority, which is one reason they didn't try to trade . A career second baseman, India is set to move to other positions, including first base and left field, while McLain is likely to take most of the games at second base.

However, India is on a modified running program after he dealt with plantar fasciitis last season and winter. Another infielder, Noelvi Marte, is also on a scaled-back running program after he injured his hamstring playing winter ball.

"All those guys are going to be fine, but yeah, things happen," Bell said. "It's a tough game. It's a physical game, and we haven't even started games yet. All in all, it's a healthy camp and guys are building up."