UPDATE, 6:14: McKay will pitch at least twice for the Rays, Cash said, with his next appearance on Friday against the Yankees, and then the team will decide if he stays or goes back to the minors. There are some discussions about letting McKay hit while he’s here, but he won’t DH 3 days a week as he was doing in the minors.
DEVELOPING: The Rays are turning to the future a bit earlier than planned, calling up lefty Brendan McKay to start Saturday’s game against Texas.
The Rays needed pitching help after covering 18 innings on Thursday, including using Ryan Yarbrough, who was slated to work bulk innings on Saturday.
McKay, the promising two-way prospect from the 2017 draft, has been dazzling this season advancing from Double-A Montgomery to Triple-A Durham.
He was3-0, 1.30 in eight games (seven starts) for the Biscuits with 62 strikeouts over 41 2/3 innings and only nine walks. He was promoted in late May to the Bulls, and went 3-0, 1.08 in five games (four starts) with 26 strikeouts over 25 innings and only six walks. Overall in 2019, he is 6-0, 1.22 with 88 strikeouts and 15 walks in 66 2/3 innings. He was scheduled to start for Durham on Friday.
McKay, 23, was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 draft and signed for a then record $7,007,500 bonus. He has continued to work through the minors as a two-way player, though the Rays this season limited him to DH duties when he wasn’t pitching rather than playing first base as he had. Though his pitching is generally considered well ahead of his hitting, he has improved since moving up to Durham, hitting .265 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 15 games.
With Yarbrough unavailable to pitch Saturday, the Rays needed help in the short-term and chose McKay, which leads to speculation if they will keep him long-term given the uncertainty over Tyler Glasnow’s return due to his latest setback with a forearm issue.
The Rays, though, will want to limit McKay’s innings, as he threw only 78 1/3 last year, missing time with oblique injuries. He already is on a six-day schedule.
McKay will be added to the MLB taxi squad Friday, as he travels south, and then activated on Saturday. The Rays will have to make room for him on the 40-man and 25-man rosters. They also will need a 40-man spot when reliever Jose Alvarado is reinstated from the restricted list, which could be this weekend as well, and when Jose De Leon is done with his already extended rehab assignment.
McKay pitched in one big-league spring training game for the Rays, working two innings against the Braves, allowing just a solo homer while striking out four, including Atlanta front-liners Ender Inciarte (curveball) and Ozzie Albies (fastball).
“It was a different experience, obviously, but it felt great," said McKay, who had played only at the Class A level at that point. “Learned a lot of stuff from talking to the pitching coaches up there, (catcher Mike) Zunino talking about how to attack hitters. … It was fun."
The Rays are likely to add a fresh arm to the bullpen for Friday’s game. Casey Sadler seems the most likely option from those at Triple-Durham.