McMahon using advice to his advantage 

March 19th, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Hitting would be simple if it were call-and-response. Hey, Ryan McMahon, in your stance, hold your bat so that the head points toward the second deck, instead of the on-deck circle … Boom.

Rockies coaches gave McMahon that simple bit of advice last June. By beginning to apply it, he went from overmatched to a key off-the-bench component of a postseason team. But now, after an offseason of truly studying the how and understanding the why, McMahon is lighting up Spring Training and showing he is ready for regular duty at second base.

During Monday’s 6-3 victory over the Reds, McMahon launched a Tyler Mahle changeup 466 feet for a home run, and stayed with a Mahle slider and pulled a double into the right-field corner. Add to that a nice barehand grab-and-sling to first, after Jesse Winker’s drive bounced off pitcher Kyle Freeland in the bottom of the third, and it was a big day in a big spring game.

McMahon, 24, is sizzling at .444 with three homers, 11 RBIs and a 1.335 OPS. Yes, it’s the Cactus League -- the same schedule that he hit .319 against last year, before needing two options to Triple-A Albuquerque before he could contribute meaningfully to the big club. But this is different, and McMahon feels it.

“You hear a lot of people say, ‘Oh, it’s just spring, it’s just spring,’” McMahon said. “But when you’re going good, you definitely put it up a little bit higher.”

Kind of like how McMahon is holding the bat head -- higher. The bat position was something then-hitting coach Duane Espy and still-assistant hitting coach Jeff Salazar brought to his attention last year, and Triple-A Albuquerque hitting coach Tom Doherty drilled. The adjustment took some time. He hit .256 with a .752 OPS after the All-Star break, after a .211 average and .620 OPS before the break.

The adjustment in the bat position was key to getting McMahon into hitting position -- the stage of the swing where the hands move away, the weight is on the back leg and the front leg is ready to stride -- more efficiently. The better position allows for better pitch recognition, a shorter stroke to the ball and a chance to make contact in front. 

Eliminating the poor positioning habits that had crept into his swing allows McMahon to better use his bat speed, which the Rockies consider elite.

The offseason was devoted to consistency. In addition to the bat positioning, McMahon added more bend in his waist, which has given him more power.

“There were definitely points, like, ‘Hey, I got it this at-bat … Oh, shoot, I lost it again,’” McMahon said. “There were some things that got fixed with the help of a lot of people.

“Trent Otis [Zona Baseball Instruction in Phoenix, a former player, and coach who also has worked with the Rockies’ David Dahl] was a guy I went to outside the organization. He said a couple of things to me that made me understand exactly what Jeff Salazar and Tim Doherty were talking about. I would say I didn’t have a great understanding of it last year. I’m just learning it more.”

Two-seam experimentation

Rockies lefty Kyle Freeland gave up a first-inning Scott Schebler homer but was solid while experimenting with this new two-seam fastball to righty hitters and a left-on-left changeup. He gave up seven hits and two runs but struck out four against one walk while throwing 77 pitches in 4 2/3 innings.

“That’s the key -- not being comfortable, but experimenting and wanting to learn going into a season,” Freeland said.

Roster moves

Righty Peter Lambert, the Rockies’ No. 4 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was among the players sent to Minor League camp on Monday. Now Lambert, 22 on April 18, joins the Triple-A Albuquerque rotation as a key part of the starting rotation’s depth picture.

Also reassigned to Minor League camp were infielder Peter Mooney, lefty pitcher Sam Howard and outfielder Noel Cuevas.

Remember, take care of the little things

The blister that will keep right-hander Antonio Senzatela off the Major League club to start the season materialized after he began wearing a new pair of baseball shoes. Senzatela said he didn’t properly take care of it, and infection set in.

Short hops

Righty Carlos Estevez, on the tail end of back-to-back games, entered with two on and two out in the fifth. He held his breath through Eugenio Suarez’s deep fly ball, but Ian Desmond made a leaping catch against the wall.

Righty Seunghwan Oh fanned two in a perfect inning. Outside of being drastically affected by a stiff neck (2 2/3 innings, nine hits, eight earned runs, two homers), Oh has thrown four scoreless innings with two hits.

Lefty Mike Dunn gave up his first Cactus League run, in his eighth appearance. He was throwing on consecutive days.

Pat Valaika, competing with Mark Reynolds for a right-handed pinch-hit role, made two standout defensive fielding plays in the ninth inning. Valaika can play all infield positions and fill in at an outfield corner.

Up next

Righty German Marquez will start for the Rockies against the Angels, and righty Cody Allen, in their first night game of the Arizona schedule on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. MT/6:10 MST.