SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Ryan McMahon is moving closer to opening the regular season as the Colorado Rockies’ first baseman.
The 23-year-old entered Thursday hitting .387 with a team-leading 12 hits in 31 at-bats.
“The numbers might be OK, but numbers don’t really mean much in spring training,” McMahon said. “You’re just trying to find your swing and get ready for the season. Trying to find the swing that I want and just enjoying it.”
Mark Reynolds, who remains a free agent, was the primary first baseman last season and had 30 homers and 97 RBIs. McMahon made his major league debut Aug. 12 and hit .158 (3 for 19) in 17 games.
“It’s good to see that he’s feeling comfortable,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “This has been a gradual progression for him this year and last year getting to the big leagues, and these are all steps that you take to become a big leaguer. He still has some boxes to check off, but he’s doing very well.”
McMahon has long gotten past the wow factor of being in the same clubhouse with the Rockies’ stars.
“When you’re young and you get exposed to big league camp, you get exposed to the guys that you’ve been looking at for a long time, the Charlies (Blackmon) and the DJs (LeMahieu) and now you’re rubbing shoulders with them, all that sort of wears off,” Black said. “And that’s where he’s at now.”
McMahon, who could follow shortstop Trevor Story from the amateur draft into the Rockies’ lineup, admits to copying what he sees on and off the field from the veterans, including third baseman Nolan Arenado.
“Take aspects of their game, just how they handle their business, go about their job being very professional,” McMahon said. “I can only be myself, but definitely want to take parts of how they go about their day.”
McMahon and Story were roommates two years ago when Story earned a starting job in spring training. McMahon took mental notes.
” He said ‘I’ve put all the work in. I know that I’ve worked my butt off to get here, now it’s just time to go show them,'” McMahon said. “That’s all I’m trying to do.”
McMahon said Black told him at the outset of spring training to be himself and play loose.
“Having him say that kind of relaxed me a little bit,” McMahon said. “Obviously I understand what’s at stake, but having the skip tell me to go out and do your thing and play ball the right way, I feel like that lifted a weight off my shoulders and it has led to me playing pretty well so far.”
Black won’t say how close McMahon is to earning the first-base job.
“Now he’s in a position to in the ensuing months or years to seize a position in the big leagues, and that’s what every player wants,” Black said. “Whether it happens right away, who knows? His long-range hope is to have a long career. The short term challenge is work on balls in the dirt. Work on ground balls at first base. Work on having good at-bats.”
Notes: OF Gerardo Parra is getting closer to a return from a hand injury, Black said. He is taking batting practice and could play in a game this weekend. … The University of Wisconsin softball team stopped by Rockies camp and attended the morning workout. Players from both teams watched and got a good laugh out of former Rockies star Vinny Castilla striking out and getting a hit against two Wisconsin pitchers. The Badgers head south to Tucson for five games from Friday to Sunday.
By JOSE M. ROMERO, Associated Press
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