The Cincinnati Reds announced this morning that infielder Matt McLain underwent shoulder surgery to repair his labrum in his left shoulder where he also had cartilage damage.

McLain, who began spring training by injuring his oblique, missed several weeks before returning to the field. He was hoping to ramp things up quickly and get ready in about two-and-a-half weeks time and be ready for opening day, but after being scratched from the lineup about a week into games, he didn’t return as he went from having a sore shoulder to seeing one doctor, to traveling to Los Angeles to get a second opinion on his shoulder to having the surgery.

The Reds have stated that there is no exact timeline for his return and that it is still to be determined, and that they “hope to have Matt back this season.”

This is a big blow to the team. Arguably their two best players from 2023 are now going to miss significant time. McLain may possibly miss the entire year at this point. Outfielder TJ Friedl, who broke his wrist, could miss 6-8 weeks. The depth of the club is being tested and has already led to them going out and making one trade to try and fix that – acquiring Santiago Espinal from the Toronto Blue Jays last week when McLain’s injury became apparent that it was more than just a little tweak.

While Cincinnati’s stated that the timeline for return is to be determined and they hope to have him back this season, it’s rare that a player – even a position player – undergoes shoulder surgery and returns that same season. That feels more true given that he had cartilage damage and labrum damage. It seems like a safe bet to expect him to not return this season, but to just be very pleased in a scenario in which he does.

117 Responses

  1. Amarillo

    What a gut punch. This team still has a lot of talent but this is getting ridiculous.

    The people who claimed that there is no room for India have been proven incredibly wrong in the most unfortunate way.

    • David Williams

      It’s not good. McClain reminds me very much of a bigger Dustin Pedroia. And he was 10 years in the league before he began having these injuries. Tough. But we may never see him be what he could have been. Pedroia was like a tiny powerful spring. McClain — same thing, but bigger. I guess it didn’t help…

  2. Reddawgs2012

    If someone had asked me in February which players we absolutely could not lose for an extended period of time this season, my answer would have been Elly, McLain, and Friedl. 1 out of 3 isn’t bad I guess 🙁

    • Chris

      …I would have said the same with adding Marte and CES. That’s 5 guys, and only 2 of them left. OUCH!!!

  3. Mark A Verticchio

    Carma, since Marte PED problems this team has had nothing but bad things happen.

  4. Laredo Slider

    Tough, tough break. What about Arroyo, will he have surgery too?

    • Doc

      Interesting to me that there was no hesitation in stating Arroyo would miss the year as soon as it was known he needed surgery for his labrum. McClain needs labrum and cartilage surgery yet they are hedging that he might be back this year. I doubt we see McClain on the field in 2024, but I’m just a lowly FP. An ortho would know better. (Note: DB is no ortho.)

      • Still a Red

        I think the fact they went out and got Espinal right away indicated the team knew he was going to need surgery, but McLain needed to be convinced. I don’t think Bell is any different than any other manager in revealing things to the public. The fans should take most everything they say in regard to injuries etc with a grain of salt. Do you think the Dodgers are being upfront in regards to the Otani affair?

  5. MK

    As a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan I’ve come to expect these kind of injuries. Starting the year others touted the Reds middle infield depth. Now we’ve lost Marte, Arroyo, and McLain. The winners in this are guys like Torres and Faltine who were poor offensively last year and now will get another year to get things together.

    • JB WV

      I know your pain. Used to the Browns having no luck, but this is ridiculous. Good thing India is still around.
      The Marte thing makes me sicker every day.

    • DaveCT

      Of that grouping of middle infielders, I’d like to see Ivan Johnson start hitting the ball better again. I recall your take on him vs McLain while both were at Dayton, and that Johnson seemed more athletic.

  6. Mark A Verticchio

    The big question is, can this team still compete with what’s left? I don’t know but one thing for sure they can’t afford any more injuries. They have now lost 1/3 of their projected starting 9. To be honest not many teams could fight through that along with the #1 infield prospect also gone for the season as well as 2 top young left handed pitchers starting the season on the IL. Man just typing this stuff makes me ill. The whole thing is hard to believe.

    • SultanofSwaff

      I think they can. They’re still a wild card team on paper to me. Clearly the roster is better than last year’s team which barely missed the playoffs, while at the same time the division is arguably weaker.

      • Jim Walker

        Agree. They’ve got EDLC, CES, and Candelario who they did not have early on in 2023. Stephenson and India look to be healthier. Steer is back. It is also overlooked that Benson and Fairchild playing essentially every day due to injuries were key contributors to the 12 game winning streak in 2023.

        Use these 8 guys as the position players with Fraley in the DH spot and run as far and as fast as they will take the team until hopefully Friedl and later Marte are back.

    • JB WV

      Elly, CES, Steer will have to be AS caliber and the pitching has to be solid.

      • Doc

        And the pitching is potentially much better. It had to be anyway for them to advance. Now it has to be just for them to get there. At least Marte is back mid season.

  7. Brian

    This is where the Reds should just respect the players long term health and respect the fans and announce that Matt will miss the year and get him ready next year.
    Why chance a young guy pushing too hard to get back early and risking a set back? I don’t get it.

    • greenmtred

      I would suppose that he would follow the advice of the surgeon and his physical therapists.

      • Brian

        I think that a veteran would but who knows with a young guy desperate to establish. I’m glad that he didn’t take the advice of the first doctor, I’m guessing he was the Reds doctor. It sounds like he had to go to LA to be told that he needed surgery. Maybe I misinterpreted that.

    • LWBlogger

      How 2nd opinions generally work in this case is that the first doctor advises that surgery is the answer. The 2nd doctor’s ‘second opinion’ either confirms that diagnoses or suggests other forms of treatment. In this case, it would appear that the doctor in LA confirmed that McLain will need surgery. Hard to say for sure, but that’s usually how this works.

      • Doc

        A logical thought, especially since it was being reported from the get go that he might need surgery. I take that as a hint that the first doc said surgery.

  8. kypodman

    stop diving for balls in practice!

    • Mark Moore

      It’s habit. Practice is to get them in the right frame of mind that the reactions are second nature.

    • VaRedsFan

      HoW aBoUt Not rUnNinG tO 1st oN InFieLd gRouNDers?
      Sounds just as ridiculous right?

    • LWBlogger

      You literally can’t keep a player from doing that. It’s instinctive. Heck, I did it just playing whiffle ball in the backyard with my cousins. I was over 45 years old at the time and knew it was a terrible idea, but that ball was close, so I dove. I haven’t played competitive baseball since I was 31 and yet the instinct was to dive for a whiffle ball in a family game. These guys play almost every day and trying to act against that instinct, while likely not impossible, is going to be challenging to say the least.

  9. redfanorbust

    Well on the bright side we probably get back Marte and Mclain back this year so there is that. Noting we can do but sit back, look for the best and enjoy the games as there is still hope.

    • Oldtimer

      Unlikely McLain back. Marte back mid year but cannot play in postseason.

      • Brian

        It would be totally foolish to bring McLain back this year.

      • AllTheHype

        Too early to say that Brian. Only the team doctor will know that.

      • Brian

        Allthehype, he has 7 months. Swinging a bat hard enough to hit a 95 mph fastball has to put heavy stress on the shoulders. It wouldn’t matter much if a guy is at the tail end of his career but why risk further issues with a young guy.
        I’m not a doctor but why shouldn’t the Reds proceed with extreme caution with their youth?

  10. Oldtimer

    It’s happened before. 3B Gene Freese broken ankle (trying for extra base in single) in ST intrasquad game in 1962. SP Ken Hunt (rookie in 1961) unable to hit the broad side of a barn in 1962 ST. SP Ken Johnson (added late in 1961) lost in expansion.

    Reds used their depth. Top prospect Tommy Harper even a brief chance at 3B but was replaced by Eddie Kasko and Leo Cardenas moved up at SS. Jim Maloney blossomed as SP in 1962. Bob Purkey had his career year in 1962. Reds won 98 games (up from 93 wins in 1961).

    1971. Bobby Tolan injured in offseason basketball game. Reds traded for George Foster to replace him but Foster wasn’t ready for prime time yet. Jim Merritt had little or nothing left in his left arm after logging lots of IP in 1969 and 1970. One of the worst years by Reds P that I can remember. Concepcion and Carbo regressed from 1970. Bench had worst year in his career as C. Wayne Simpson injured in 1970 and never recovered.

    So will it be a little bit better (98 W) or a whole lot worse (79 W) for Reds?

      • Oldtimer

        Welcome. 1971 was an awful summer for a 20 year old college sophomore in Cincinnati.

    • DataDumpster

      Thanks again, Oldtimer, for providing the details that few can. The early 60s predate me but I have some memory of the 1971 team. Simpson, Merritt and Tolan were key players of that era and after the 1971 campaign I don’t think many were envisioning what soon followed. But, then came that little trade with Houston…where I and probably most other fans were mourning the loss of the Big Bopper [*Lee May*] but Bob and Sparky were way ahead of us (and most everyone else.)

      • Oldtimer

        The 1971 trades for Foster in May and Morgan/others in November made the BRM what we remember it was. Averaged 100 W from 1972 through 1976.

  11. docproc

    Major, major bummer. Losing 1/3 of our starting 9 will certainly test our depth.
    The only consolation is that we should now have a steady infield of CES, India, EDLC, and Candelario. There’s a lot to be said for that.
    One other small consolation is that it was McLain’s non-throwing shoulder.

    • David

      Yeah, but as a right – handed hitter, that is his “power” shoulder (arm); his left arm.

      Still, I think with good surgery and good rehab, he will be ready for 2025, and may be back sometime this year….or not.
      But he may not be the player he was. Shoulder surgeries are kind of tricky.

    • Melvin

      “One other small consolation is that it was McLain’s non-throwing shoulder.”

      That is probably the only reason there might be a SLIGHT chance he could return this year. It will be shocking if he does.

  12. Mark Moore

    At least the course of action is determined and nobody chose to play around with “alternatives” and then came back around to surgery.

  13. Klugo

    I just hope this isn’t Meseraco 2.0. Ouch.

    • AllTheHype

      Not his throwing shoulder = better chance of full recovery.

      • Grover

        He’s not a pitcher so his hitting with that being his lead/power shoulder is more of a concern

    • Doc

      One difference is that Mesoraco had a four year guaranteed contract. McClain doesn’t.

  14. MBS

    It stinks, but I think we all pretty well knew this was the likely outcome already. Lets just hope he, and Arroyo recover well. The Reds also have baseball games in 2025.

  15. Daytonnati

    As Grandma used to say, “sooner the war, sooner the peace.” Better surgery than a 50-50 time-consuming rehab period that ends with surgery.

  16. Mike in Ottawa

    I’ve had this surgery 3 times. 2 in the right shoulder and 1 in the left shoulder. 6-8 months is reasonable for a return (maybe just a DH role) from this surgery.

  17. JB

    Last year’s injuries were the reason why the front office signed all these pitchers and position players this off season. Everybody whined about it and said to trade players. Well this is why you are on the couch and Krall is in his position. Thank God we still have India and Steer( yep people wanted to trade him too) and they signed Candelario. You just can’t have enough players.

    • MBS

      I was floating Gurriell, and Soler as RHB’s to add, and people were like we are too deep, where is everyone going play?

      • 2020ball

        Ive said all winter that the only thing i want the team to add is simply more talent, regardless of position, and retaining guys like India is fine because it just means more options for the team. I praised the Candy signing since its not obvious to many that adding to a strength is still making you stronger. Ive yet to hear any of the pessimists walk back their constant whines about where people are gonna play, etc.

      • Mauired

        Still not a huge fan of the Candelario signing but obviously with all the injuries I’m warming up to it. If he produces, I will love it. But I think he’s overrated. He seems like an average player making a lot of money.

    • Amarillo

      Yup, and going even further, it’s truly amazing when people complain about Minor League signings. It’s impossible to have too much depth.

    • DW

      Ok, but that assumes no return from the trade. And I am not one of the ones who complained that you are speaking of. But what if India had been included in a trade package for a quality center fielder, for example?

    • Justin T

      Still waiting to see exactly why Krall is in that seat. Surely aint the results. I guess we will see, or maybe more excuses? Bringing up the opinion of ignorant people who wanted this and that guy traded doesnt make your case.

      • greenmtred

        Results? 20 more wins in ’23 than in ’22 thanks almost entirely to the youth movement that he is overseeing.

  18. Michael Wilson

    Reds played their best baseball last season when McLain joined the club, India was healthy, and Díaz was fresh. To me this season’s success depends a lot on how well Espinal fits in and who in the bullpen is going to step up to help Diaz.

  19. LDS

    Back this year sounds like the typical Reds’ spin. They shouldn’t even consider it. And there’s the question of how much he recovers. Some players have recovered well, e.g., Michael Brantley, while others never did, for example Senzel, who never reached his ceiling.

    • 2020ball

      Y’all and the weird obsession with spin, who cares if he wants to try and return this season, its his career and i see zero reason to think he cant do it and still be effective down the stretch. Am I confident he will? No, but what does it hurt to make that his goal? Expecting a non-answer per usual.

      • LDS

        Spin reflects a lack of integrity in an organization, regardless of the institution, sports, corporate, or political. Just tell the truth or acknowledge that you can’t answer at this point.

      • Still a Red

        No one is saying he IS coming back this year. Nothing wrong with leaving the door open as long as the right decision is made when it needs to be made. Nobody wants to sit out a whole year, maybe McLain needs to feel the door is open. No organization has the integrity LDS is looking for.

    • greenmtred

      Whether they should consider it or not would depend upon the doctors’ advice and how McLain is feeling. Not what we think. Mike just posted that he’s had the surgery three times and the recovery timetable is 6-8 weeks, so late this season may not be impossible.

      • Doc

        Mike said 6-8 months, slight difference!

        Six months from April 1 is October 1. Eight months from April 1 is December 1. Season pretty much over either way since it is not likely he comes back and steps into a playoff role after not facing live game pitching all regular season.

      • greenmtred

        I knew that, Doc. Must have given in to subliminal wishful thinking.

  20. Indy Red Man

    Responding to “The roster is still better then last years”

    Idk? No McClain, Freidl, Marte, Moll, Williamson, or Gibaut. Who did I miss?
    Young guys are a year older and Candy, Martinez, and Pagan should help, but I can’t see how they’re better?

    • 2020ball

      It depends on if we are talking opening day rosters or not, i keep wondering if thats more what people mean. I dont see the roster as obviously better than last year’s other than the pitching staff overall.

      • greenmtred

        I agree, but the pitching staff being better ain’t chopped liver.

    • AllTheHype

      Only Friedl and Gibaut on your list started the season with the Reds last year.

      Add full years for Abbott, EDLC, CES, & Antone to Candy, Montas, Martinez, & Pagan to start the year.

      Plus Lodolo, Williamson, Moll sometime in April

      Also who knows which MiL players will be ready to shine there and make meaningful contributions to ML team. Maybe one or two of Dunn, Phillips, Hinds, Hurtubise, Richardson, Santillan?

      Depth is STILL very good. Talent is STILL very good.

      • Doc

        We need a Lou Gehrig who makes Matt McClain look like Wally Pipp!

  21. CI3J

    Even if he CAN come back this season, I don’t WANT him to.

    He needs to rest and recuperate to be fully healed for 2025. The last thing we need is him trying to rush back in September and injuring himself again.

    • greenmtred

      At a certain point, recuperation requires increasing levels of activity, prescribed until the surgeon and therapist judge him ready, then resumption of normal activity.

      • CI3J

        Yes, and it should not happen this season

      • greenmtred

        You must be an orthopedic surgeon.

    • Justin T

      Nock Lodolo also made it back at the end if the season last year…

  22. Laredo Slider

    EDLC, CES, Steer have to carry the load, marginal beyond those guys. How long does the pitching stay healthy is the biggest question. Hard to see this team over .500.

    • AllTheHype

      Disagree on carrying the load. One or more of Candy, Benson, Stephenson, India, could have very productive years. McLain will be missed, Marte will be back. But others have the talent to step up.

  23. LWBlogger

    Well that is a whole big helping of bad news. Arguably the Reds 2 best hitters are out for very significant amounts of time. I hate to say it, but I think I’m taking the under on the Reds win total. I think they struggle to be a .500 team. I hope I’m wrong, but there we have it. Two injuries, even to key players are certainly not the end of the world, but the season hasn’t begun yet and guys will certainly get hurt throughout the season. The Reds have the depth to deal with this but who steps up when the next guy goes down with an injury? That’s what makes this so tough.

    • Redsvol

      I’m afraid I agree @LW. This is still a fun and exciting team but it will struggle a bit defensively and with on base percentage. Friedl and McLain were excellent at getting on base and are also excellent defensively. Defense is always under-rated by fans. This is why the Brewers have always been at the top of the division, they don’t give up extra outs.

      What are the odds to lose our 2nd string shortstop – McLain, 3rd string shortstop – Marte, and 4th string – Arroyo for practically the entire year. I’m sure Krall must be thinking he is cursed.

      I’ll have to hand it to Krall also, if any team can overcome this much loss it is this Cincinnati Reds team. Getting Espinal before the final roster cut downs was also genius.

      I have to keep reminding myself, Luis Cessa, Conner Overton, and Luke Weaver aren’t pitching games this year. And Encarnacion, EDLC, Candelario and Benson will play (hopefully) a full year for us as opposed to the likes of Vosler, Henry Ramos, Will Myers, Kevin Newman, and Nick Senzel. That has to count for something doesn’t it?

      Praying for health rest of the year.

    • Jason Franklin

      Good to see you sticking to the brandname. 🙂

  24. Mauired

    Barrero outrighted off Rangers 40 man roster. Which means every team in baseball passed on him. Even the Reds after all the injuries and suspension. A little surprising since they are still trying to fill that last spot.

    • Jim Walker

      I firmly believe there was something more than merely baseball reasons behind the timing of the Reds waiving of Barrero and am not surprised they passed on claiming him.

      • Mauired

        Bell commented after that he wasn’t making the team but if he passed through waivers they were ok with him in the organization. Sounds like they just don’t believe in him as a MLB talent.

      • Mauired

        For everyone theorizing that he was unwanted for attitude problems or something:

        David Bell on Jose Barrero: “He wasn’t going to make our team, so that was the move we had to make. If he would have cleared waivers, it would have been great to have him back. At the same time, we’re happy for him. I’ll miss him. He has been a big part of our organization.”

      • Jim Walker

        And concurrently or since Bell said those things Noelvi Marte was suspended for half the season. Edwin Arroyo was lost for the season. Matt McLain for all practical purposes went down for the season and TJ Friedl is out until sometime in May (or longer). Meanwhile, the Reds have yet (as I type this) to fill their opening day roster out.

        David Bell has a knack for saying things that make everyone feel good about the Reds but which eventually turn out to be less than accurate.

      • greenmtred

        Maybe, Jim, but what about all the other teams–all of them–who passed on him?

      • VaRedsFan

        @Maui – Bell didn’t say anything about his attitude or work ethic.
        Even if it were true, no manager is ever going to come out and say that in public.

  25. LDS

    Jeez, Kevin Newman is suddenly available. I can see Reds signing him again. After all they have an open slot.

    • Mauired

      Unfortunately I can see that stupidity not working again.

  26. Jason Franklin

    Would it make sense for Bell to have Benson hit leadoff against righties and India against lefties while Friedl is out?

      • Still a Red

        I’ve noticed Benson and India swapping lead-off a few times in spring training. Might make someone on this blog a little happier.

  27. Old Big Ed

    India was bad defensively last year, but on the other hand he had plantar fasciitis, which is an excellent excuse.

    India needs a good year. People forget that he had a 4.1 bWAR as a rookie at 2B; McLain in fewer ABs posted a 3.7 bWAR. So, they just have to make the best of it. One door shuts; another one opens.

    The 2001 Mariners won 116 games, despite having lost A-Rod from the prior year and Griffey and Randy Johnson in earlier years. Granted, they did pick up Ichiro.

    • Mauired

      They had Steer planning to play LF all off-season so they probably don’t want to move him again. But he’s probably the better second baseman between him and India. On the flip side, I’ve been curious to see India in the OF.

      • Jimbo44CN

        Nope, don’t think so at all. Saw him there in a ST game and he just did not have the range and quick hands. 3rd, yes , fine with him there. McClain better than INdia? Maybe. Steer better than India. No way from what I saw. Granted it was little, but enough.

      • Mauired

        Jimbo you have made the conclusion he can’t play second base after one spring training game? Ok

      • VaRedsFan

        Based on last season. Steer looked better than India at 2B

    • DaveCT

      I’ll be curious to see if India’s defense improves without having to cover for Votto.

      • Justin T

        It has to right? It was brutal there towards the end. While I do think that India is a little underrated defensively at second (simply because people rate him so low to start with), I think more than range his problem is his hands. Not sure if his hands are too small or what, but sometimes he plays hot potato with the ball. But alot of deficiencies can be covered by a good athletic 1st baseman.

    • VaRedsFan

      @ Big Ed – He still has plantar fascitis.

  28. CI3J

    All I can say is, between the Marte, Friedl, and McLain news, I’m a lot less excited for Opening Day than I was a month ago.

  29. Indy Red Man

    Well here goes:

    2B – India
    SS – Elly
    LF – Steer
    1B – CES
    RF – Fraley lhp – Stephenson
    3B – Candy
    C – Stephenson lhp – Fairchild
    CF – Benson lhp – Espinal (.829 ops vs lefties 2022)
    DH – Martini lhp – Benson

    Personally I’d atleast bat Benson leadoff, but it is what it is

    • Indy Red Man

      I’d have Benson leadoff vs righties and India DH vs lefties

  30. Melvin

    Too bad. McLain is the best all around player on the Reds and even turned up as the 5th best 2B in fantasy sports. At this point he’s my favorite Red too.

  31. Colorado Red

    I just wonder why Matt is not on the 60 Day, free up a roster spot.
    I am no doc, but having a frozen shoulder last year, took 6 months of therapy (was told a year to 18 months).
    I am of course much older.
    But I do not see it.

    • Amarillo

      You can’t place a player on the 60-day until opening day. He’ll get added as soon as there is a need for the 40-man roster spot.

    • MBS

      I was just thinking about this. I wonder if they are targeting a FA, but decided to wait for opening day.

  32. Jimij

    McClain injury a guy punch, they need to fill open spot with a DH or a good bat, the pitching staff will need to pick up some slack and perform, you always expect injuries but not several starters before the season

  33. Rob

    Sad news. Kind of draws me back to late July 2023 when many fans and Nick wanted to conserve farm assets to defer the championship chase to 2024. All while we were sitting in first place! Spilled milk now.

    Well 2024 is at the doorstep and we have had an unfortunate run of injuries. So now what? My guess is that Nick will ride the remaking horses into July, and then to the reverse of 2023, make the necessary (prospect) trades to secure the championship run.
    Not picking on Krall or fans for 2024 and the plans and results to come. But the reminder again is that you can’t always spend your dollars and choose your year to compete for the championship. 2 less losses from the many.starts of Weaver, Kennedy, Spiers, and Richardson and we were in the 2023 playoff and the Dbacks are not. In 2024 we may not be first in late July and have to do a heck of lot more to make the championship run. But this is our year.