After trade, Kay off and running for Bisons

Lefty becomes Toronto's No. 5 prospect following Stroman swap with Mets

August 4th, 2019

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- When Anthony Kay learned that he was about to be traded to the Blue Jays from the Mets, he was at the mall.

The 24-year-old left-hander and his girlfriend were heading to see “Toy Story 4” after his Triple-A Syracuse Mets team wrapped up a shutout over the Toledo Mud Hens at NBT Bank Stadium when his brother sent him the first tweet indicating he was part of the exchange for .

“I saw that we traded for Marcus and I thought, 'Oh, that’s interesting, I wonder who we gave up,’” Kay said. “Then it obviously came out that it was pitching prospects, and I really didn’t think it was me. I was getting blown up by everyone, asking if it was me, and I had no clue.

“My brother sent me the tweet from Ken Rosenthal that said the trade was going to be me and Simeon [Woods Richardson]. Then I got a call from my agent like 10 seconds after that. … It was pretty much a shock.”

The shock hasn’t yet worn off for Kay, who made it to Buffalo -- the home of the Triple-A Bisons -- by Tuesday to join his new team. The team then headed to Lehigh Valley on Wednesday, where Toronto’s No. 5 prospect made his organizational debut, allowing seven runs (three earned) on nine hits over 4 2/3 innings with three walks and three strikeouts.

“It’s been crazy,” Kay said. “Once I got traded, I came here [to Buffalo] and we were all in here for a day and then we went down to Lehigh for two days and then finally back here. We’re only here for three days, and then we’re back on the road. It’s been crazy, just trying to figure out where everything is. I’m still getting used to it.”

As Kay jogged to the outfield at Sahlen Field on Friday for the pitchers’ stretch ahead of the Bisons’ series opener against Syracuse, his former teammates jokingly booed the 6-foot, 218-pound southpaw. Though the situation was “weird” for Kay, he couldn’t help but be reminded of everything the Mets offered him.

“They gave me the opportunity to play pro ball,” the New York native said. “They drafted me in high school and I went to college, and then they drafted me again in college, so I’ll always be grateful for them giving me the opportunity to play. … I wouldn’t be where I am without those guys.”

Kay joins the Blue Jays in his second professional season. Selected by the Mets after his junior year at Connecticut, the No. 31 overall pick in the 2016 Draft underwent Tommy John surgery not long after signing. He returned to the mound in ‘18, and he has shown solid feel with an above-average fastball, curveball and changeup.

“Left-handed arms that can throw in the mid-90s, they don’t grow on trees, so he’s a talent,” said Royce Ring, Syracuse’s interim pitching coach. “He’s got a good arm. He can throw both of his offspeed pitches for strikes.

“It’s more about refining those pitches and getting acclimated to this level of baseball, where you’ve got more experienced guys who have been in the big leagues, and just understanding himself and his pitches. He’s got a lot of ability and a great future.”

Kay started this season with a 1.49 ERA over 12 starts and 66 1/3 innings at Double-A, logging 23 walks and 70 strikeouts. In seven starts with Syracuse before joining the Bisons, he posted a 6.61 mark over 31 1/3 frames with 11 walks and 26 strikeouts, and he has shown improvements along the way.

“He refined what he was doing a little bit and how he was attacking hitters and sequencing his pitches, and he started having some success,” Ring said. “This is the level for him where he got to learn, and that shows what kind of talent he is, because a lot of people do that at earlier parts of their career. And he’s going to continue to do that.”

The learning process for Kay has continued beyond the field as he joined the only organization north of the border. The hurler reached out to the masses on Twitter to ask about Canada, and he was quickly overwhelmed by the replies.

“I learned a lot of stuff,” Kay said. “I was actually a little blown away by the response that I’ve gotten. You kind of start to understand the whole concept that it’s literally the whole country supporting you. It’s really cool.

“And I learned little tidbits about -- how do you say it? Poo-TEEN? Is that how you say it? Poutine sounds pretty good. Everyone said that and ketchup chips, those are the two big things that I learned that I need to figure out and try. Everyone says they’re really good. I’ve heard poutine is unbelievable.”

As he continues to adjust to his new surroundings, Kay looks forward to what the future holds.

“I just want to go out there and pitch and get a little bit more comfortable with my teammates and everything like that,” Kay said. “Then, hopefully, I get to go up to Toronto eventually, and I can show everyone what I’ve got.”