McLain makes positive first impression in Reds debut

Matt McLain got multiple firsts out of the way in his major-league debut.

The new Cincinnati Reds shortstop popped out to first base in his first at-bat, but he lashed a ball into right center his second time up Monday night in Colorado.

McLain never broke stride after leaving the batter’s box and ended up sliding safely into second ahead of a throw from center fielder Brenton Doyle.

Doyle had to cover some ground to get to the ball, but it was the type of hustle double that is sure to endear McLain to his new fanbase — especially those who remember such a play being one of Pete Rose’s signature moves.

“They were playing me over and he had to go away to get the ball,” McLain said. “So I saw it as a double the whole way.”

Getting himself into scoring position with one out paid off as Jake Fraley singled to left field in the next at-bat. That knocked McLain home prior to Spencer Steer popping out to second and Tyler Stephenson grounding out to end the inning.

That was not the only heady play McLain made that led to a run in a game the Reds lost 9-8.

With Cincinnati trailing 9-7, he walked to start the ninth inning and eventually came around to score on Nick Senzel’s single to center with two outs.

“I was just trying to get on base any way I could because I knew we were down two,” McLain said. “I just needed to get on base. A home run would tie it up.”

That didn’t happen, but it still stood as a positive debut for McLain, who was the Reds’ first pick in the 2021 MLB Draft.

“It’s tough we didn’t win, but it was a really fun moment for me,” the California native said.

Manager David Bell liked what he saw, too.

“Just to get your first game, get the hit out of the way and then he just kind of settled in and played a game,” Bell said. “That was a big at-bat in the ninth there getting a walk and he definitely looked like he belonged. There’s no question about that.”

McLain figures to be a fixture in the lineup after getting his call-up.

“We’ve gotten to know Matt over the last couple of spring trainings,” Bell said. “He fits right into our team, plays the game the right way, plays hard. He works hard. He’s here for one thing — to go out and win a baseball game, so he’ll fit in beautifully to our team. It was determined that he was ready for it and he’s going to get an opportunity to play.”

Bell avoided specifically calling McLain the new everyday shortstop, but he confirmed McLain will be a regular in the lineup.

“There’s no way we would bring him here if the plan wasn’t for him to play a lot,” Bell said. “It was determined he was ready for that. He’s going to play short quite a bit. He can play second base, too.

That means veteran Kevin Newman will shift to more of a utility role while Jose Barerro will get more time in center field and on the bench.

“Starting with Jose, he’s going to play short, and he’s going to continue to work in center field,” Bell said. “It may be an opportunity where he’s not playing as much. Continue to work on his swing, maybe go a little bit deeper, but he’s got to be able to go out and compete in a game and do what he’s comfortable with.

“So we’re gonna us it as an opportunity to do some extra work, but he’s gonna have a role and we’ll find him starts. When he doesn’t start, he’s got to be ready to come off the bench.

“Same with Kevin. For Kevin it’s more of a utility role than it has been. It’s been mostly short. He’s going to work a little bit more at first base just to get him as many opportunities to get into the game as possible.”

The 25-year-old Barrero was a Reds phenom himself not long ago, but he has struggled at the major-league level since making his debut three years ago.

This season the Cuba native, whose signing was considered significant when he chose the Reds in 2017, is hitting .223 with seven doubles and one home run in 94 at-bats. He has started 24 games at shortstop and seven in center.

The 29-year-old Newman is hitting .237 with two doubles and two home runs in 93 at-bats.


Reds at Rockies, 3:10 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410

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