Rays ink Kinney, second Day 1 pick

July 19th, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG -- Eight days after hearing his name called on Day 1 of the MLB Draft, Cooper Kinney made his way around Tropicana Field wearing a Rays cap with his father, Mike, and the rest of his family. He didn’t want to wait long to start his professional baseball career.

Kinney signed with the Rays on Monday, making him the first member of their 2021 Draft class to officially join the organization. Tampa Bay selected Kinney, an 18-year-old infielder from Tennessee, with the 34th overall pick on July 11, their second Day 1 pick behind California high school shortstop Carson Williams.

Kinney received a $2,148,100 signing bonus, MLB.com’s Jim Callis reported, the full slot value of his selection in the Draft’s Competitive Balance Round A. Kinney had been committed to play at South Carolina, but he made it clear the night he was drafted that he was “100 percent ready to go and ready to play and show what I can do.”

Kinney backed up those words by signing quickly. Now he will report to the Rays’ complex in Port Charlotte, Fla., and begin working out at the outset of a career that he hopes will eventually bring him back to a big league ballpark.

“I’m super excited to get going. I’m really excited to start this track,” Kinney said while standing near the back of the Tropicana Field press box. “I’ve been ready, and this has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid.”

Kinney is a bat-first infielder with power to all fields and an advanced approach for a high school hitter. The left-handed hitter batted .480/.539/.990 with 10 homers and 19 doubles in 31 games during his senior season at The Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tenn., earning him the state’s Mr. Baseball Award and Tennessee’s Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year honors. Amateur scouting director Rob Metzler previously said that Kinney will work at second and third base as he enters the Rays’ system.

Kinney made the trip south to St. Petersburg with his entire immediate family and said it was special to share such a “life-changing” moment with them.

“It’s been nothing but just exciting. I’m blessed to be here. I’m nothing but excited to be here,” Kinney said. “I’m really proud to be here and super excited. Really glad that the Rays took a chance on me.”

The Rays remain optimistic that they will sign their other top picks, including Williams. The deadline to sign picks from this year’s Draft is Aug. 1.

Around the horn
• High-leverage right-hander picked up two saves during the Rays’ series victory against the Braves over the weekend, and he has now made six consecutive scoreless appearances. During that streak, Fairbanks has retired 19 of the 20 batters he has faced -- he allowed one hit Sunday afternoon -- while striking out eight. That comes on the heels of a tough stretch in which Fairbanks suffered three losses and allowed 12 runs (eight earned) on 11 hits and six walks with only five strikeouts in five innings over six outings.

What changed? After a conversation with pitching coach Kyle Snyder following his June 30 outing against the Nationals, Fairbanks stopped over-thinking his delivery and got back to what he has done in the past.

“I made a couple changes to the rhythm, trying to feel more athletic on the mound. Throwing the ball where I am right now, it’s been good,” Fairbanks said. “I felt like I was getting kind of stagnant, kind of robotic for a little bit, focusing almost too much. So I’m just trying to get back to being an athlete and throwing like I’m more of an infielder than I am a pitcher.”

• Left-hander will make his first start of the second half on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field. McClanahan last pitched on July 9, but he entered the All-Star break on a high note by recording a 3.38 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings over his final four outings.

It will be McClanahan’s first career start against the Orioles, which carries some significance. Born in Baltimore, McClanahan grew up a fan of the Orioles -- and specifically Cal Ripken Jr., “the reason I love this game,” he said – and used to take the train to Camden Yards with his father to watch games.

• The Rays’ series victory against the Braves at Truist Park over the weekend was just their second series win in Atlanta in club history and their first since July 15-17, 2001.