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McKay dealing with stiff shoulder

Drake developing breaking ball; Tsutsugo taking grounders at third
@juanctoribio
February 21, 2020

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The plan for Brendan McKay coming into Spring Training was to ease him into throwing live batting practices, but there’s another reason why the two-way player hasn’t completed his first session.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The plan for Brendan McKay coming into Spring Training was to ease him into throwing live batting practices, but there’s another reason why the two-way player hasn’t completed his first session.

On Friday, manager Kevin Cash said McKay has been dealing with left shoulder stiffness, but it’s not believed to be anything serious. The 24-year-old has been making progress and said he “felt really good” after throwing from 120 feet during Friday’s workout.

“I think the plan anyway was that he was going to be behind,” Cash said. “But he feels fine.”

The Rays will wait to see how McKay feels Saturday, but if all is well as expected, the left-hander could throw a bullpen session Saturday or Sunday.

Drake working on breaking ball
Oliver Drake completed his first live batting practice session Friday, and there was a little bit of a surprise. Drake threw fastballs and splitters, which are part of his normal repertoire, but he also featured a breaking ball. Because the pitch is still in its early stages, Drake joked that he doesn’t know whether to call it a cutter or a slider just yet.

“Just working on something was a focus this offseason, just trying to find how to improve on last year,” Drake said. “Looked at what I did well, looked at what I did poorly. I think a breaking ball would help, so just fiddling with that and we’ll see how it works.”

If Drake feels like the pitch is good enough to use in games, he hopes that it’s just another pitch that he can throw against both lefties and righties. Drake said this offseason he emphasized how to improve against right-handed hitters, who finished with an .857 OPS against him in ‘19.

“He looked good,” Cash said. “If the breaking ball works and it’s something he’ll play with, that should help him out a lot.”

Tsutsugo at third
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo took early ground balls at third base Friday and all feedback came back positive. Tsutsugo worked with Cash and third-base coach Rodney Linares during the drills.

“He looked really comfortable over there,” Cash said. “It’s not the easiest setting, the turf is kind of matted down to where it’s fast over there. Some of those guys that have been in camp the last couple years recognize that, but Yoshi did a good job.”

The plan for Tsutsugo is still that he will play left field in Sunday’s home opener against the Yankees and will serve as the team’s designated hitter Monday against the Red Sox.

Up next
The Rays open Grapefruit League play Saturday in Fort Myers against the Red Sox, and there are plenty of regulars making the trip. Manuel Margot will hit leadoff and play left field, while Trevor Richards will be the starter on the mound.

The full lineup will be:
1) Margot, LF
2) Brandon Lowe, 2B
3) José Martínez, 1B
4) Brian O’Grady, CF
5) Hunter Renfroe, RF
6) Nate Lowe, 3B
7) Kevan Smith, C
8) Chris Herrmann, DH
9) Daniel Robertson, SS

Aside from Richards, Jalen Beeks, Peter Fairbanks, John Curtiss, Joe Ryan, Tyler Zombro, Sam McWilliams and Ryan Thomspon are all scheduled to pitch for Tampa Bay. The projected arms for the Red Sox are left-hander Brian Johnson, right-hander Bryan Mata, lefty Mike Kickham, righty Colten Brewer, lefty Josh Osich, righty Mike Shawaryn and righty Domingo Tapia.

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.