Rodgers, McMahon making 2B platoon work

Since top prospect's callup, both infielders have thrived at plate

June 2nd, 2019

DENVER -- Recent Rockies callup likes to say of himself and fellow second baseman , “We’re both hungry.”

This week, they have taken turns feasting.

Rodgers, the Rockies' top prospect according to MLB Pipeline, delivered a two-run bases-loaded single on Wednesday that keyed a win over the Orioles. The left-handed-hitting McMahon’s 458-foot homer against D-backs southpaw T.J. McFarland was part of an 11-10 victory on Thursday.

“He’s a great player," McMahon said of Rodgers. "He helps the team and he’s one of my, personally, good friends. Whether it means splitting time, it doesn’t really matter as long as we help the team out. We both are, so it’s pretty exciting.”

The issue when the Rockies called up Rodgers, 22, was how he would fit into the lineup. McMahon, 24, was the prospect who fans clamored for last season, even as he struggled for half the season.

But manager Bud Black doesn’t find the issue of deciding which guy to start particularly vexing. But his use of Rodgers and McMahon is one reason the club has been winning lately.

“These are two young players who are doing everything they can to contribute to a win each and every day,” said Black, who worked a similar plan with Ian Desmond, David Dahl and Raimel Tapia for two outfield positions before Charlie Blackmon’s recent calf injury opened a spot for all three.

“They’re doing great. They’re both performing, both contributing to wins. I’m very proud of those guys, how they’re handling it.”

The plan to give both McMahon and Rodgers at-bats is working, instead of driving Black crazy. McMahon gave wait-and-see answers initially about Rodgers’ arrival and has shown well. Prior to Saturday’s game against the Blue Jays, McMahon had started nine of his previous 12 appearances entering Saturday and is batting .306 (.250 on the season) with three homers, three doubles, seven RBIs and a 1.044 OPS during that span. He said he doesn’t feel as good in the box as when he plays every day but added, “Who knows? That might be a blessing in disguise, go up there and not try go do too much.”

Rodgers had started eight of his first 11 big league appearances and enters his start on Saturday slashing a solid .324/.378/.382. Black has even found ways to start both, once with McMahon at first base and Rodgers at second and once with Rodgers at shortstop with Trevor Story getting a rare off-day.

“We’re both helping each other out, and we’re both getting after it,” said Rodgers, who noted that he sat in the dugout and called McMahon’s big double in a win over the Orioles early in the homestand. “We’re both having fun. It’s hard not to have fun in the big leagues.”

Before the McMahon-Rodgers platoon became reality, Rockies second basemen -- not just McMahon, who missed 10 April games with a left elbow injury, but also Garrett Hampson and Pat Valaika (both now at Triple-A Albuquerque) -- ranked near the bottom in many key offensive categories.

Now the Rockies are safely in the top 10 by the key offensive measures since they went with the two young players.

One key is the Rockies' treatment of both as developing players. This week, for example, both were thrown out at third base for the third out late in games after hesitating on a ball in the dirt. Before Thursday’s game, Rodgers and McMahon were on the field before batting practice for basic defensive fundamentals with third-base coach Stu Cole, and the one who doesn’t start does extra work and prepares for late-innings duty.

“Matchups, keeping guys fresh, giving guys a break, mental and physical – a day off,” Black said, explaining the factors in his lineup choice on a give day. “I’ve mentioned that about some younger guys.

“It’s good for them to watch a game, or come off the bench in a National League game like Rodgers did [on Friday]. Instead of playing nine innings, he played two, came off the bench and got a hit. For me, that counts as playing.”