Brendan McKay Learns To Have Fun
Two-way prospect Brendan McKay is known for taking the game seriously, but this spring the 2017 first-rounder out of Louisville seemed to be having more fun.
He was even seen smiling at times.
This is a big season for the 23-year-old McKay. The lefthander will begin the season at Double-A Montgomery on the basis of his work on the mound, but he hasn’t had the same positive results at the plate.
So in an attempt to simplify his pregame work schedule and help him stay healthy after twice dealing with oblique issues last year, the Rays are limiting McKay strictly to DH rather than have him play first base several times a week as he did last year at low Class A Bowling Green and high Class A Charlotte.
"I want to be on the field and play first base, but I understand where they're coming from," McKay said. "Taking care of stress, not really taking you over the top, to keep you healthy, I understand that aspect of it.
"You get to focus on hitting. That might be a little behind pitching, but honestly if you get more focus on it you might get a little bit better."
McKay said he remains committed to reaching the majors as a two-way player, a la Shohei Ohtani of the Angels. The Rays remain committed, too, though it will be interesting to see what happens if McKay’s success as a pitcher continues to exceed his hitting.
In a spring start against the Braves' A-team, he struck out four over two innings.
"He’s got excellent stuff,’’ catcher Mike Zunino said. "I was able to talk to him a little bit afterward and just sort of tell him what I thought of it. I thought he was excellent, very poised, very polished, being only, what, a year and some change out of college? I think the upside is extremely high with him.’’
McKay’s take—and note the ending:
"It was a different experience, obviously, but it felt great. I learned a lot of stuff from talking to the pitching coaches up there (and) Zunino talking about how to attack hitters . . . It was fun.’’
— The Rays assigned 18-year-old shortstop Wander Franco, the No. 4 prospect in baseball, to low Class A Bowling Green.
— First baseman Nate Lowe will start at Triple-A Durham, while shortstop Lucius Fox and outfielder Jesus Sanchez are destined for Double-A Montgomery. Second baseman Vidal Brujan, catcher Ronaldo Hernandez and outfielders Moises Gomez and Garrett Whitley open at high Class A Charlotte.