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Rays’ Brendan McKay shut down due to shoulder tightness

The lefty had been doing fine in build-up training after a COVID-19 case, then something amiss and there is concern.
Brendan McKay of the Tampa Bay Rays throws from the bullpen mound during a voluntary workout at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on June 22.
Brendan McKay of the Tampa Bay Rays throws from the bullpen mound during a voluntary workout at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on June 22. [ WILL VRAGOVIC | Tampa Bay Rays ]
Published Aug. 11, 2020
Updated Aug. 12, 2020

Rays lefty Brendan McKay has been shut down from throwing at the team’s Port Charlotte camp due to tightness in his shoulder.

Manager Kevin Cash said McKay, the promising prospect, is in the middle of a seven- to 10-day period of rest and will be re-evaluated, noting he has had previous shoulder issues, which seems to be of significant concern. Any serious injury could sideline McKay for the rest of this season, possibly beyond.

“We’ll see how it kind of plays out,: Cash said via a Zoom call from Boston before Tuesday’s game. “He’s had some of those issues in the past, and we just want to do right by him.”

McKay made his major-league debut last season, going 2-4, 5.14 in 13 games (11 starts) and was expected to play a meaningful role this season. Had McKay been healthy, there is a good chance he would have been called up given the injuries that have sidelined starters Yonny Chirinos and Charlie Morton.

McKay had some shoulder issues last season, and was set back at the start of spring training in February with stiffness and expected to be sent to Triple-A. He participated in the informal June workouts at Tropicana Field and the first four days of Spring 2.0, then was sidelined from July 7 through July 30 after testing positive for COVID-19. He reported to Port Charlotte on July 31, throwing a 20-pitch bullpen session, and had worked up to two innings in a simulated game. He last threw on Aug. 5 in a live batting practice session.

“Brendan has noted that he has had some issues, even dating back to last year,” Cash said. “After his San Diego start (on Aug. 13) he said he didn’t feel right, I’m not totally sure that he has completely gotten past that of having no issue. His buildup was going well and then after an outing he kind of went in and said, ‘I just feel really tight and not comfortable in my shoulder area.’ "

Cash said Chirinos, sidelined with triceps inflammation, felt “really, really good” playing catch on Tuesday and they hope for him to throw a bullpen session in a few days with the chance to return soon to the rotation. He is eligible to come off the injured list Thursday.

Snell game

Blake Snell goes into Wednesday’s start against the Red Sox expecting to throw five innings or 75 pitches, whichever comes first. Either will be progress, as under a planned slow buildup he has thrown 46 pitches and two innings, 53 and three, and 59 pitches and three in his first three starts.

“I’m excited to start getting more into the starting pitcher role instead of the opener role,” he said Tuesday. “Most importantly, I’m happy with how I feel, with how (pitching coach Kyle Snyder) was able to let me build into it and really start to grow and get it going again. I’m very happy with how I’ve slowly built into the season to where I can feel as healthy as possible, which is the most important thing.” Plus, he feels his pitches are sharper, having not allowed a hit over his three innings Friday and striking out five.

Margot’s inspiration

Outfielder Manuel Margot felt he had some assistance with his four-hit game Monday, his second since the death of his father, Emmanuel, in the Dominican Republic after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19. “I felt like he was there with me,” said Margot via team translator Manny Navarro. “Because he was sick I wasn’t able to communicate with him. I know he is always there now so I was thinking of him.” Margot said his father played a large role in his career, as well as that of his four brothers and four nephews who have played pro ball. “He was definitely a mentor of mine,” Margot said. “Anytime I struggled he was the guy called to get some advice and to get some positivity.”

Quote of the day

“That game literally took seven hours. I watched all of it. I might have took a nap for 20 minutes — don’t blame me for that.”

Snell, exaggerating only slightly, about Monday’s four-hour, 24-minute game, the second longest nine-inning affair in franchise history.

Miscellany

Lefty Sean Gilmartin, designated for assignment Sunday, will stay with the Rays after clearing waivers and accepting an outright assignment to the Port Charlotte camp. … There was no word by game time Tuesday on the status of catcher Kevan Smith, who also was designated on Sunday. … Rookie reliever Ryan Thompson got the traditional — albeit socially distanced — beer shower after his first win Sunday: “The beer was very cold and there was a lot of it on me.” He also got the authenticated ball from the final out, which has already been claimed by his dad, who was again settling for the next best thing to being there, watching from Ferg’s sport bar across from Tropicana Field before heading back to Oregon.

Staff writer Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this report.