DENVER -- When last seen in the Majors, Ryan McMahon launched a key home run in the Rockies' June 20 victory over the Mets. But the Rockies sent him to Triple-A Albuquerque the next day to work on needed corrections with his swing.McMahon returned Sunday, and started at first base
DENVER -- When last seen in the Majors, Ryan McMahon launched a key home run in the Rockies' June 20 victory over the Mets. But the Rockies sent him to Triple-A Albuquerque the next day to work on needed corrections with his swing.
McMahon returned Sunday, and started at first base during Colorado's 3-2 win against the Athletics with a chance to show his improvements. He doubled twice and drove in a run in the victory, which completed a three-game sweep of Oakland.
McMahon hit .305 during the recent stretch with the Isotopes, with seven home runs and 27 RBIs in 32 games. That stint concluded with an 11-game hit streak during which he slashed .383/.420/.660, with three homers and four doubles.
"Getting consistent at-bats, I figured out a couple of things that were flawed in my swing," McMahon said. "It was just kind of my whole direction. There was a lot of twisting and spinning, so it was staying on line and doing things like that."
The Rockies optioned outfielder Noel Cuevas to Albuquerque in a corresponding move.
Days before McMahon's homer off Robert Gsellman in the 10-8 victory over the Mets at Coors Field -- his second of the season and of his career -- Rockies coaches noted that he had tilted his bat so far behind him that it made it hard to reach hitting position in time. It led to difficulty hitting Major League fastballs.
The twisting that cost him timing and direction was the same flaw that beset veteran outfielder Carlos Gonzalez during the early part of the season. McMahon, who had been taking batting practice in the same group as Gonzalez before the send-down, realized they were working on the same techniques, only using "a different vocabulary." At any rate, McMahon found success and confidence.
"I'm excited to be back, excited to join this ballclub," he said. "They're on a roll right now, so I'm just trying to help out."
The right-handed-hitting Cuevas has been a valuable substitute and starter against some left-handed pitchers. Colorado manager Bud Black said the left-handed-hitting McMahon is a better fit for now because of the positions he plays -- first and second base -- and the fact the Rockies are scheduled to face right-handed starters for seven consecutive games beginning Sunday. So McMahon is an option as the Rockies continue to cover for the absence of regular second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who is eligible to return from his left oblique strain on Tuesday.
"We think it's a good fit here in the short term," Black said. "We'll see how it plays out."
McMahon joins Garrett Hampson and Pat Valaika as multi-position players that can offer flexibility. McMahon plays first base and second base, Hampson plays second base, shortstop and center field, and Valaika can play all infield positions.
Cuevas' absence cuts the outfield depth, but first baseman Ian Desmond, who entered Monday on a 13-game hit streak, can play outfield if need be.
LeMahieu making progress
LeMahieu is passing physical tests, so far.
"The last three or four days have been good for DJ on the recovery track," Black said. "He's gaining confidence in his movements from the training side. Just talking with DJ, he feels optimistic about where this is headed."
Bettis nearing return
Black said righty Chad Bettis pitched four innings for Albuquerque on Saturday and reported no issues with the blister on his right middle finger. Bettis threw 74 pitches before a rain delay prematurely ended his outing.
"We talked about a couple of pitches that he didn't execute that upset him, but as far as just the finger and how he felt, it's fine, and that's a good sign," said Black, who said the team will talk through the next few days about Bettis' next step. Bettis made the trip to St. Louis, where the Rockies will open up a four-game series against the Cardinals on Monday.
Bettis has a 5-1 record and 5.10 ERA in 17 starts with the Rockies. The blisters flared twice -- both during starts at Dodger Stadium. He pitched through the issue the first time but saw his performance affected for several starts.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.