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Spokane Indians

Starting pitcher Chris McMahon makes most of brief return to Spokane Indians

Chris McMahon was one of the Spokane Indians’ best starting pitchers during the 2021 season. His stay in Spokane this season might be brief, but it will be impactful for him – and the team.

Last season, the right-hander – in his first season of professional baseball at age 22 – went 10-3 with a 4.17 earned-run average, winning four of his last five starts to help the Indians reach the championship series.

After a blowout loss in Game 1 of that series to Eugene, McMahon started Game 2 and tossed 6⅓ shutout innings, allowing just four hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. But the Emeralds scored three runs in the ninth to win the game on the way to the series crown.

McMahon, a second-round pick in the 2020 MLB draft and the Rockies’ No. 24 prospect according to MLB.com, should have been poised to join most of his 2021 teammates with an assignment to Double-A Hartford this season, but a strained lat injury in the spring shut him down for much of the season.

He returned to an active roster in late July with the Colorado Rockies’ Arizona Complex League team and made four appearances there with mixed results, but coming out of it healthy.

The Rockies assigned him to the Indians last week and he made his first High-A start of the season Thursday in a win over Tri-City. He gave up some hard contact early and a late home run but struck out four and walked none over five innings.

He threw 63 pitches, 42 for strikes.

“It feels good to be back here,” McMahon said after the performance. “This crowd was pretty good tonight, missed them for sure.”

“I was impressed,” Indians pitching coach Ryan Kibler said. “I thought he looked healthy, which is most important.”

McMahon said he “felt pretty good” physically after the start.

“Got a little tired at the end in that last inning in the fifth,” he said. “But for the most part, just being around the plate, throwing strikes. That’s all I could ask for.”

“(He) was pretty good,” Kibler said. “Good stuff. He made some mistakes with his fastball and paid for it. He got behind in the fifth and they got through his fastball.”

Kibler heaped praised on McMahon’s location and slider action, remarking that it was sharper than last year.

“I was very impressed by his location at the bottom of the zone for the most part, especially early in the game and midouting when he was cruising there a little bit.”

McMahon is scheduled to start again Thursday. If he comes out of it healthy, he may get that delayed promotion to Hartford before the end of the season .

He appreciates getting put into a situation where the Indians are fighting for a playoff spot at the end of the season.

“It’s just competitive energy right off the bat and I love it,” he said.

“Last year, I was a part of that playoff push with Spokane here. So, we jump right back in another one. It felt good.”

McMahon had no restrictions as far as his pitch selection but was on a closely monitored pitch count as he returns from injury.

“I had some pitches left,” he said. “I tried to go back out for the sixth, but they didn’t let me.”

Kibler hopes the rest of his pitching staff was taking note of McMahon’s performance – and attitude.

“Hopefully, it was an example to some tonight,” he said.

“That’s the first thing that came to mind when I got the phone call was, I can’t wait for that guy and that demeanor to wander around this locker room and then go about his business.”

Kibler is happy to have McMahon with the club for however long that may be.

“Special kid, special demeanor,” he said. “A professional. Loose, while focused at the same time. It’s special. Nobody does it like he does. And he does it like that every single time out. It’s consistent. It’s who he is. And it’s effective.”