McLain (shoulder) set for 2nd opinion, will open 2024 on IL

March 21st, 2024

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Any hopes had that his sore left shoulder would only be a speed bump to get past were dashed on Wednesday.

The Reds are sending their second baseman to get a second opinion on his sore left shoulder. Manager David Bell revealed after an 8-1 split-squad loss to the Rangers that McLain would open the regular season on the injured list.

"I think it’s safe to say he’s not going to start the year on time," Bell said. "As far as knowing exactly what that’s going to look like, it’s still too early. Until he gets that second opinion, we’re really not going to know that. We can start planning on not having him to start the year.”

Cincinnati moved quickly to address its infield shortage by acquiring utility player and former All-Star Santiago Espinal from the Blue Jays for Minor League pitcher Chris McElvain. Trade talks began Wednesday morning.

“It got done pretty quickly," president of baseball operations Nick Krall said. “Two years ago, [Espinal] was an All-Star. He plays second, short and third. He serves as a real quality utility infielder who can play all over and give guys days off.”

McLain was scratched from Monday’s game vs. the Giants after coming up sore from trying to make a diving play in practice. Initially, it appeared he might get through the injury with little time missed.

A doctor who checked out the 24-year-old McLain on Monday found nothing concerning.

“Hopefully, it’s just a speed bump of a day or two and then back at it," McLain said on Tuesday morning.

But by Tuesday evening, McLain underwent an MRI exam. While the results and diagnosis were not revealed, Bell confirmed that the issue was more serious than originally expected.

“There was something found,” Bell said Wednesday morning. “I do know we’re going to have a discussion of some options as far as what treatment he gets. … There’s the potential for surgery, but not necessarily."

McLain, who missed three weeks of camp earlier because of a sore right oblique, was 0-for-13 in five spring games.

Coupled with Sunday's news that center fielder TJ Friedl will miss the start of the season with a fractured right wrist, the Reds' lineup will have to absorb the loss of another main contributor in McLain.

One of the rookies who sparked the Reds to a contending 2023 season and 82 wins, McLain debuted in mid-May and batted .290 with an .864 OPS, 16 home runs, 50 RBIs and 14 stolen bases over 89 games.

McLain missed the final month while on the IL with a strained right oblique.

The Reds have options at second base that include Jonathan India and Spencer Steer. India was the club's primary second baseman from 2021-23, but he was set to play multiple positions in 2024 while McLain became the regular second baseman.

“We’ve got to talk about it. Nothing has been determined yet," Bell said. "Obviously, the first line of defense are the guys we have in camp here. We feel good about that. We’ve built our team and our system in order to have the depth to get through times like this.”

However, there is a depth issue now at shortstop. McLain was also to be Elly De La Cruz's backup at that position. With third baseman Noelvi Marte, a natural shortstop, set to serve an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a PED, Cincinnati has no natural shortstops on its 40-man roster.

There was additional infield news when it was learned that top shortstop prospect Edwin Arroyo underwent surgery on Wednesday to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

Arroyo, who is ranked No. 3 in the organization and No. 67 overall by MLB Pipeline, will miss the entire season.

Enter Espinal, a 2022 All-Star who is better known for his defense. The 29-year-old batted .246 with two home runs in 93 games for Toronto last season.

“We also have him under control for three more years," Krall said. "It’s a guy that has a chance to continue to grow on this team.”