McMahon, Hampson shifting mindset in spring

March 23rd, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Neither nor have played a full big league season, and often Spring Training for such players is just an endeavor to make a team. But both have accomplished the immediate goal, and are concentrating on making themselves -- and the team -- better.

Both are in line not only for roster spots, but starts at second base and at-bats off the bench. Although they will have to prove themselves all over again when the regular season begins, there is substance behind their solid Cactus League numbers.

McMahon, 24, a left-handed hitter, entered his start Friday in a split-squad game against the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium hitting .440 with three home runs, 11 RBIs and a 1.282 OPS. The right-handed-hitting Hampson, 24, the Rockies' No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was batting .278 with three home runs and was 7-for-9 on steal attempts going into Friday’s start against the Padres at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

“With 'Mac,' not that he didn't come in with a great deal of intent the last couple years, but it's just different with who's on our roster and where he potentially fits,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He came into spring extremely motivated to make a point, and he has.

“Hampson, coming up last year making his debut and being a part of our team for the greater part of the second half, he came in trying to impress us to the point where he wants to prove he should make this team. Both guys have really made a point to come in ready to prove that they belong on this roster.”

McMahon made the Opening Day roster last year by hitting .319 in spring, but the contact was not consistently hard. He would be optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque twice before gaining traction as a bench player late.

McMahon has learned that the Spring Training stats are immaterial compared to developing a sustainable thought process. If the approach he develops here can carry him through the pressure of trying to make the team and earn starts, it has a better chance of working during the actual season.

“I understand what my best approach is going to be to get certain things done,” McMahon said. “It's recommitting to my approach every pitch. When I step out, I have intent when I step out. It's to get back in the right state of mind.

“Possibly last year it was, 'Oh, crap. He might be throwing the heater here. Don't miss it.' Now it's, 'Get ready for this: If he gives you something you can do something with, swing at it.' It’s just basically trusting what I've been working on.”

McMahon hasn't gotten discouraged by the drudgery of playing in daily games that will be forgotten once the regular season begins.

“When you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it's, 'Hey, let's get to the season,'” McMahon said. “But that's the wrong attitude to have. These games do matter. You have to check back in, focus up and finish strong so you feel good going into the season. That whole mindset carries into the season, where you don’t give at-bats away or give plays away.”

A look deeper into Hampson's spring shows that the stats have taken a true back seat to his goal of having his diverse game in order.

For example, for a right-handed batter, one approach would be to swing away and build numbers against left-handed pitchers to prove he could start in a platoon situation. Hampson was 3-for-12 against lefties going into Friday.

However, Hampson notes that he is 1-for-5 when attempting to bunt for a hit, and 1-for-4 against lefties, with the hit being against the Cubs' Jose Quintana. He said he wants to show a willingness to bunt toward first base as lefty pitchers naturally tilt to the third-base side after delivery.

Hampson, who can play at shortstop, third base or in the outfield, credited Albuquerque manager Glenallen Hill with encouraging him to compete by showcasing his skills and not being afraid that a dare may not work.

“Now is the time to sharpen those skills,” Hampson said. “G-Hill is on me a lot about knowing my game. He calls it, 'Perfect your craft.' It's awesome to have someone like that always on me, pushing me to try those things.

“It makes them nervous on defense. At the end of the day it's putting pressure on the defense, whether it's a bunt, a steal, taking first-to-third, taking an extra base, dirtball read. It's a bunch of different stuff with speed guys.”