SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Ryan McMahon looks just like he did a year ago. He has the same smile, youthful face, and a bundle of energy.
Only he’s different.
This year, he has a confidence in the challenge ahead of him. Drafted as a third baseman in the second round of the 2013 first-year player draft, given ample time in the minor leagues as a first baseman, as well, he now finds himself back to his youth.
He is in line to be the Rockies Opening Day second baseman against the Miami Marlins and at no worst the left-handed-hitting portion of a second base time share with right-handed-hitting Garrett Hampson. It was his original position, but McMahon, whose appearance gives the impression he is even taller than the 6-foot-2 listed in the media guide, made the move to third base after eighth grade.
“Last year Mac was like all young players, trying to make an impression, doing everything they can to make the team,” said manager Bud Black.
And he did, as a backup player in a season that saw him shuttle between the big-league team and Triple-A Albuquerque three times.
“This year he is trying to have good at-bats and play the game the way it should be played,” said Black. “You see more confidence in his play. His focus is the same thing, `Let’s play. Better have a good at-bat.’ It more about the team instead of trying to make the team.”
No formal announcement has been made, but consider the mission accomplished.
McMahon went into the Rockies exhibition game against the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night hitting .457, an .848 slugging percentage, 21 hits and 39 total bases, all of which ranks No. 1 in Major League Baseball this spring. He also was tied for first with a .500 on-base percentage and hit safely in 16 of his first 20 games.
“I came in more experienced, more confident, more excited than a year ago,” he said. “One of the best feelings of this spring was when Desi (Ian Desmond) hit a ball to second base to get the runner to third with me on deck. It was like he had confidence in me getting that run home.”
While he also figures to get occasional time at first, spelling off-season free-agent signee Daniel Murphy, and third, on occasions Nolan Arenado takes a break, McMahon knows the bulk of his time will be at second base.
“It’s where I played my whole life until eighth grade,” he said.
The memories are good, but the physical mechanics have benefitted from the spring training work.
“The ball up the middle, the backhand play, is something I have to work on, and the footwork around the base,” he said. “I’ll do it. We have so many guys that are here to help you.”
And he looks forward to opportunities to keep his skills honed at first and third.
“Ben Zobrist kind of changed the image,” McMahon replied when the idea of being a utility player was mentioned. “He made it more of a role of versatility.”
McMahon has shown the Rockies he is capable of filling that role.