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Rays’ Brendan McKay looks good on mound, makes pitch to hit

Rays Journal: Shoulder stiffness seems behind lefty, union amends revenue sharing grievance, Morton plans.
Tampa Bay Rays aspiring two-way player Brendan McKay.
Tampa Bay Rays aspiring two-way player Brendan McKay. [ JOHN BAZEMORE | AP ]
Published Mar. 6, 2020|Updated Mar. 6, 2020

FORT MYERS — Brendan McKay thought he had a deal with his Rays bosses, that once he got over his shoulder stiffness and starting pitching in games, he could resume hitting as part of his preference to be a two-way player.

So after working an impressive inning in his spring debut in a 5-3 loss to the Twins, he playfully told manager Kevin Cash he’d brought his bat and “was ready to hit.’’

Not so fast, Cash said. “He’s gonna have to pitch a little bit more.’’

Joking aside, all parties were quite pleased with what McKay did on the mound.

He clocked 93-94 mph consistently with his fastball and mixed in some changeups, retiring three of the Twins top hitters in Jorge Polanco (fly out, after starting 3-0), Josh Donaldson (strikeout) and Marwin Gonzalez (flyout) around Mitch Garver reaching on McKay’s error on a play at first.

“Overall I’ll take what it was,’’ McKay said. “I was kinda going crazy not being in there, but it is what it is and hopefully we’re past it now and can start preparing for a season.’’

That seemed likely to be at Triple-A Durham, but if Blake Snell isn’t ready to start the season, McKay is a candidate to end up in the opening week rotation, assuming he can get built up to a five-inning workload. “We’ve got plenty of time,’’ he said.

Because of the shoulder issue, Cash said they likely will abandon the plan to move McKay from a six-day pitching schedule to the more standard five to try to keep him healthy. Which means, for now, he still won’t be in there swinging.

Game details: Twins 5, Rays 3

Non-roster righty Deck McGuire gave up two walks to open the ninth, then a two-out walk-off homer to Matt Wallner as the Rays dropped to 8-5-2. … Joey Wendle, hitting cleanup in what Cash jokingly called “a lineup card glitch,” homered in the second and also made a highlight-worthy play in his first action at third base, with an assist from a mid-season form pick up and split stretch by first baseman Ji-Man Choi. … Lefty Shane McClanahan, the USF product, continues to dazzle, striking out three in the eighth, clocking 99 mph. He has faced 26 batters over five games and struck out 10. “He’s fun to watch,’’ Cash said. “A lot of talk about him for good reason.’’ … Outfielder Randy Arozarena made another heads-up play on the bases, scoring from second on a passed ball when the Twins were slow too cover home. … Starter Yonny Chirinos looked sharp over three scoreless innings, allowing two hits while throwing 45 pitches (32 strikes).

More pitching

* Charlie Morton won’t take his scheduled turn on Sunday against the Pirates, pitching instead in a simulated game on a backfield. Morton said it’s more to give him a chance to build up his pitch count and innings in a controlled environment than avoiding the team he is expected to face in the March 26 opener. Morton plans to get to 60 pitches Sunday, and is likely to throw again on the back fields to get to 75 and then pitch in a final regular spring game.

* Brent Honeywell “looked good” in throwing his third bullpen session of the spring, Cash said, mixing in about five changeups to his 20 pitch outing on Tuesday and Friday schedule. “It has been kind of a long week, so a little tired, but everything is going well,’’ Honeywell told reporters in Port Charlotte.

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Union doubles down vs. Rays

The players association has amended the grievance it filed against the Rays (plus the Marlins and Pirates) over how they spent revenue-sharing money to include a second season, a union official confirmed Friday. The Rays had no comment. The original grievance, filed in spring 2018, covered the 2017 season and the following offseason. The amended grievance covers the 2018 season and the next offseason. The original grievance process is ongoing, with no date for a hearing before an arbitrator.

Coronavirus precautions ramp up

The Rays have a mandatory Saturday morning meeting to discuss coronavirus precaution and information with doctors sent by Major League Baseball. The team is also working to have players sign balls and other items to give to fans in an effort to limit close personal contact for autograph signings.

Miscellany

Infielder Lucius Fox is from the Bahamas, but will play in the upcoming World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament for Great Britain (It’s a long story on his mom’s side, he said). Also participating are minor-league pitchers Igor Kimura (Brazil) and Hector Figueroa (Spain). … Former Rays and Twins outfielder Denard Span was at the game visiting with old mates. ... Saturday is the second of three split-squad, two-game days.

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