SEATTLE -- The Rays’ two-way experiment with left-hander Brendan McKay will get a jolt of hitting progression when the club visits a National League park this week in San Diego.
McKay’s hitting has taken somewhat of a back seat since he was recalled on July 31 to contribute Major League innings in a pennant chase for a Rays club that’s without starting pitchers Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Yonny Chirinos. But he took batting practice on the field Sunday at T-Mobile Park -- not typical for position players ahead of day games -- and he’ll take roughly 15-20 minutes of cuts on Tuesday ahead of his start that night.
“That's just part of my routine, just being ready to pinch-hit or if I have to be in the lineup that day,” McKay said. “I don't kind of personally know what other guys do, but that's what I like to do. I still hit all through the Minor Leagues this year. I love it. For me, I like being on the field and playing.”
McKay, who went 0-for-4 on July 1 against the Orioles in his only game hitting, is the only Rays pitcher who will take more significant offensive preparation at Petco Park. The club will pitch openers on Monday and Wednesday, in part to ease the burden of at-bats for its pitchers.
Ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 first-base prospect as recently as this season, McKay’s offensive numbers in the three years since he was drafted with the No. 4 overall pick aren’t overwhelming. He’s slashed .214/.342/.355 over 559 plate appearances after crushing college pitching at the University of Louisville for a .966 OPS. Essentially, his hitting hasn’t caught up to his pitching, while his development on the mound at the MLB level remains a work in progress.
McKay is also ranked as the No. 2 overall left-handed pitching prospect, and over six big league starts since debuting in July, he’s gone 2-2 with a 4.55 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and an impressive 11-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The sample size is limited, but the club would like to see him opt more for his third and fourth pitches, a cutter and changeup, which could help him escape jams that have hindered him at times.
The Rays are still developing McKay as a two-way player, and they’re giving him an extra day’s rest each turn through to help him maintain his routine. He hits the day after he pitches, and then for three straight days for full BP before taking the day off before he starts.
Snell to play catch on Monday
Snell will take the first step toward a return from arthroscopic left elbow surgery when he plays catch for the first time on Monday at Petco Park, where the Rays begin a three-game series against the Padres.
Snell is likely still at least four weeks away, given that he’ll need to regain his arm strength, throw off a mound, build his innings workload and begin a Minor League rehab assignment. The Rays are still optimistic that the lefty will return to the club when it hopes to make its final push for a postseason berth in September.
The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner had experienced some regression this season before his most recent start on July 21, going 6-7 with a 4.28 ERA over 20 starts.