Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Rays

Rays will limit workload for two-way prospect Brendan McKay

McKay will stick to DH and won’t play first while continuing to work as a starting pitcher.
Brendan McKay, shown during 2018 spring training, will be limited to pitching and DH duties this year. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published Feb. 11
Updated Feb. 11

PORT CHARLOTTE – In an effort to aid two-way prospect Brendan McKay’s development as a pitcher and a hitter the Rays have decided he no longer will play the field.

By limiting McKay to DH duty rather than playing first base, the Rays feel he can simplify his pre-game schedule; focus on his performance at the plate, which has lagged behind his work on the mound; and, they hope, stay healthier after being sidelined twice last season with oblique injuries.

The Rays recently discussed the change with McKay, the No. 4 pick in the 2017 draft who got a $7 million bonus, and will implement it when he reports to minor-league camp later this month.

“This is all about prioritizing the things we think are most important in Brendan’s development at this stage,’’ senior VP Chaim Bloom said. “This will allow him to organize his pregame program more efficiently and keep his in-game focus on the areas we think are most critical to his development.’’

In spending most of his first full pro season at Class A Bowling Green and Charlotte last year, McKay pitched in 19 games and was in the lineup for 56 others, starting 28 at first. His numbers were much better as a pitcher, posting a 5-2, 2.41 record with 110 strikeouts, and only 14 walks, in 78 1/3 innings while hitting .214 with six homers, 39 RBI and a .727 OPS.

Some analysts, such as ESPN’s Keith Law, say the Rays should halt the two-way experiment and have McKay focus on pitching because he is good enough to have an impact in the majors sooner, even this season.

FROM 2018: Can Rays two-way experiment McKay work? Well ...

Though cutting back on McKay’s workload, Bloom said they remain committed to developing him as a two-way player, and don’t consider this a step away or back from that plan.

“We understand the skepticism,’’ Bloom said. “What Brendan is attempting is something that for good reason not many are able to do. But he’s been doing it at a high level his whole life, and he’s eager to continue. This is a way to streamline his development and set him up for success.’’

Shaping a unique development program for McKay has been somewhat of a fluid process. The Rays relied heavily on feedback from McKay last year and also experimented in different ways, such as limiting him taking infield practice and changing their cutoff-and-relay alignment so McKay, when playing first, wouldn’t have to make stressful throws.

RELATED: Tommy Pham doesn’t regret ripping lack of fans, want to see more

They feel, at least for now, that reducing his workload by taking away the defensive drills or responsibilities will allow him to spend more and better time elsewhere, and with less wear and tear. For example, his only throwing will be as part of his pitching program. The Rays have not ruled out McKay returning to first base at some point later in his career.

But for this season, McKay, assigned either back to Charlotte or promoted to Double-A Montgomery, will be on a six-day schedule, with plans for him to pitch once, have one day off and then DH four days.

Tanner Dodson, another Rays two-way prospect who pitches in relief and plays centerfield, will continue to play the field.

Read more:

How Rays fans feel about the team's future

New TV deal won't be as lucrative as hoped

Marc Topkin: The 10 Rays we're most curious to see this spring

John Romano: The Rays stadium future looks bleak, but it doesn't have to be

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston talks to reporters after an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. The Saints won 31-24. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) BUTCH DILL  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay: What’s next for the Bucs, Astros-National World Series preview, the Lightning’s short-circuit start
  2. Davey Martinez gained valuable experience as a coach behind Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay. But when Maddon exited, the Rays bypassed him for a "new voice," Kevin Cash. Tampa Bay Times
    After failing to land a half-dozen manager jobs, including with the Rays, Martinez and Nats ended up a good match.
  3. Jose Altuve prepares to be mobbed by his teammates at home plate as Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman leaves the field after giving up a walkoff two-run homer to the Astros second baseman in the ninth inning to win Game 6 of the AL Championship Series 6-4 on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. The Astros win the series 4-2 and advance to the World Series to play the Washington Nationals. MATT SLOCUM  |  AP
    New York ties the ALCS Game 6 in the top of the ninth with a two-run HR before the diminutive second baseman wins it with a blast off Aroldis Chapman, putting Houston in the World Series.
  4. In 1968, slugger Frank Howard, known as the "Washington Monument," proved to be one of the few bright spots for the Washington Senators. AP
    The Nationals’ improbable postseason run rekindles memories of the woeful Washington Senators
  5. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash, on left, along with Erik Neander, center, senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager, and Chaim Bloom, senior vice president of baseball operations, address the media during a press conference at Tropicana Field Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Rays Tales: Research now, action to come as Rays get caught up after playoff run. Plus, TV rating info and rumblings.
  6. The Astros’ George Springer signals foul, but the delirious crowd in the rightfield stands at Yankee Stadium knows better as the ball hit by Aaron Hicks caroms off the foul pole for a three-run homer in the first inning of Game 5 of the AL Championship Series on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. FRANK FRANKLIN II  |  AP
    After falling behind 1-0 in the top of the first, New York slugs two home runs in the bottom half of the inning and cuts the series lead to 3-2. Game 6 is tonight in Houston.
  7. An emotional CC Sabathia is helped off the field during the eighth inning in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series against the Astros on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. The 39-year-old left-hander injures his pitching shoulder and is taken off the Yankees' postseason roster, thus ending his 19-year major-league career. MATT SLOCUM  |  AP
    The 39-year-old left-hander is taken off New York’s playoff roster, thus ending his 19-year big-league career.
  8. Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn (17) and right wing Luke Witkowski (28) celebrate with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) after the Lightning defeated the Boston Bruins 4-3 in a shootout in an NHL hockey game Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) ELISE AMENDOLA  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay: There was bad news Thursday in the Tampa Bay penalty box, for USF’s Blake Barnett, for the Yankees and the NFL’s reigning MVP.
  9. Astros manager A.J. Hinch answers questions during a news conference before Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. FRANK FRANKLIN II  |  AP
    A.J. Finch calls the accusations, including one of his team signaling by whistling, a “joke.”
  10. Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez raises the NLCS trophy after Game 4 of the baseball National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Washington. The Nationals won 7-4 to win the series 4-0. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) JEFF ROBERSON  |  AP
    They’re easy to like, familiar-looking and also connected to Montreal. Most importantly, they’re not the Astros or Yankees.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement