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Rays' 2-way plan for McKay continues at camp

Touted prospect balancing pitching, hitting this spring
MLB.com @wwchastain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Brendan McKay, and his unique situation as a hybrid player who can pitch and hit, can be confusing at times.

"You're always thinking, 'Am I at the right place?'" said McKay, the Rays' No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Brendan McKay, and his unique situation as a hybrid player who can pitch and hit, can be confusing at times.

"You're always thinking, 'Am I at the right place?'" said McKay, the Rays' No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline.

Video: Chastain on McKay's ability to pitch and hit

Normally said confusion would be solved by the powers that be within an organization, who would dictate to a player such as McKay that they wanted him to be one or the other. But the Rays like to be outside-the-box thinkers. At least that's the approach they've taken with McKay since drafting him out of Louisville with the fourth overall pick in last June's MLB Draft. From the beginning, they've said they planned to let the left-handed-hitting McKay continue to play both first base and pitch. Even if McKay's head spins from time to time.

"We look at him just the way he's been signed, and what he did at [Short Season] Hudson Valley, he's going to continue all that here in Spring Training," Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said. "Then he'll go to a full-season club to take on both halves of the inning."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Can McKay take this grand experiment all the way to the Major Leagues, like the Angels' Shohei Ohtani is trying to do?

"Absolutely," Lukevics said. "He has skill. This is unprecedented, uncharted so-called waters. But we have a plan. We had a plan from Day 1. Our hitting coaches, pitching coaches, our coordinators, we're all on the same page about his workload, so we can balance out the day."

Lukevics said the experiment has posed a challenge for the Rays for the simple reason they've never done it.

"That's why he has input into it," Lukevics said. "Last season at Hudson Valley, we basically mirrored his Louisville schedule. We actually learned from him how to go about doing this. And there's adjustments to make. This is new for us."

McKay reports that everything has "gone well" thus far, thanks to a lot of input from Dewey Robinson and Michael Johns, the organization's Minor League pitching and hitting coordinators, respectively.

Video: Top Prospects: Brendan McKay, 1B, Rays

"I've talked to [Robinson and Johns] a lot, about [the schedule]," McKay said. "Like today, I had a side bullpen, so I started off with the pitchers. Did all that stuff, then hopped over and took my batting practices, and then did all the conditioning and other stuff I had to do from the pitchers' side."

Robinson gave McKay a calendar that has all of the days he'll be throwing this spring, including side days, bullpen days and game days.

"Just to give me an idea of how to plan," McKay said. "You kind of know yourself what you're doing. And how to recover and how to plan your whole time here. How to make your body feel its best every day."

At this point, the Rays are thinking the McKay experiment is legitimate.

"Our scouts felt very strongly after they saw him at Louisville that both sides of the inning can play," Lukevics said. "So we're going to take this on with open arms and see how it all goes."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays