Sending rookie lefty Brendan McKay back to Triple-A, even if it’s just for 10 days to do some bullpen work to get re-calibrated, sure seemed like the right move given how he struggled again in Monday’s ugly 9-3 loss to the Mariners, and his lack of experience in ever going through anything like this before at any level.
Over his past five starts, McKay is 1-3, 8.69, allowing a .344 average and three or more runs in each game, including seven homers. Plus in his last two starts, he walked nine after allowing only three free passes previously.
“You’d like to see gradual improvements; let’s make some strides here and there," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "But certainly his last two outings, a little bit of a rut. That happens. The best ones, Charlie Morton, he’s been in a rut before. We haven’t seen it this season, but certainly throughout his career. All the good ones go through it. Brendan is going to be really good. He’s going to be a really good pitcher. He needs to work through some stuff right now.”
McKay, speaking before he was told of the demotion, admitted he isn’t sure what to do except forget his last outing and be confident going forward. But as to what went wrong Monday?
“Some of the same struggles that I had the couple past starts,” McKay said. "I’m falling behind a lot early and it’s a lot easier for hitters to hit when they’re able to be aggressive and free. Then, making a couple of quality pitches and not getting the results you want in outs or strikes, it kind of weighs on you mentally and frustrates you. Things can snowball from there.”
With McKay sent down, the Rays first move was to call up lefty reliever Hoby Milner, who throws sidearm with some funky movement on his pitches. Milner, who broke in with the Phillies in 2017 and pitched in four games for the Rays last year, can kind of fill the role Adam Kolarek had as a lefty specialist. He has been used for multi-inning work at times at Triple-A Durham as well.
The next move will be to fill out their rotation, as McKay had a set spot, although since he was working on a six-day schedule and the others were all on five there were some complications.
For the next turn or two expect them to call up Austin Pruitt, whose 10 days in the minors are up on Thursday, to start either Friday or Saturday, and to roll with some semblance of a five-man rotation, albeit some behind openers.
So starting with Tuesday’s game, and knowing they have Monday’s off-day to work, they would look something like this:
Tuesday: Jalen Beeks
Wednesday: Charlie Morton
Thursday: Ryan Yarbrough
Friday: Austin Pruitt or Trevor Richards
Saturday: Trevor Richards or Austin Pruitt
The Rays have to add Milner to 40-man roster, which they seemed likely to do in September anyway. In adding him and having to reinstate lefty Anthony Banda from the 60-day DL and to the 40-man roster, by Friday, the Rays 40-man roster will again be full. If they needed to make another addition infielder Yandy Diaz could be shifted to 60-day injured list to make another spot.
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays