TORONTO -- Billy McKinney's morning began with an unexpected trip to the Yankees' player development complex in Tampa, Fla. By nightfall, the promising outfielder had collected his first Major League hit and contributed to the Yankees' 4-2 win.Promoted on Friday to replace the injured Aaron Hicks, McKinney manned left field
TORONTO -- Billy McKinney's morning began with an unexpected trip to the Yankees' player development complex in Tampa, Fla. By nightfall, the promising outfielder had collected his first Major League hit and contributed to the Yankees' 4-2 win.
Promoted on Friday to replace the injured Aaron Hicks, McKinney manned left field and notched a single in his first big league at-bat, a second-inning grounder to right field off right-hander Aaron Sanchez. He finished 1-for-4.
"Once I hit it, I was hoping it would sneak on through, and it did," McKinney said. "It was a big weight off my chest. I was really excited. It was a lot of fun."
That baseball was preserved for McKinney, who plans to give it to his parents back home in Texas. He did not learn that he needed to pack a passport until Friday morning, when senior director of player development Kevin Reese asked him to report to his office.
Reese teased McKinney before revealing that there was an afternoon flight booked to Toronto in his name and that he would soon be starting for the Yankees.
"I was going to go home for a couple of days for Easter with my family, and they were kind of like, 'Yeah, you can't go home now,'" McKinney said before the game. "So I was like, 'Oh, what did I do now?' Then they said I was heading to Toronto. I was pretty pumped."
Rated as the No. 19 prospect in the Yankees' system by MLB Pipeline, the 23-year-old McKinney enjoyed a solid spring in which he tied Didi Gregorius for the team lead with five homers and 13 RBIs.
"It seems like even when he does make an out, he makes the pitcher work," manager Aaron Boone said. "He grinds out the at-bat, he understands the strike zone to a degree, he'll take a walk, which we certainly like. So I feel like that's why there wasn't a lot of hesitation for me throwing him in there today, knowing that I feel like he's going to give us a quality at-bat and do a lot of things right on the field."
Despite his spring performance, the Yanks' projected outfield depth prompted McKinney to expect that he would begin the year in the Minors.
With Hicks joining outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier on the disabled list, the Yankees had an immediate need for McKinney, who batted .277/.338/.483 with 16 homers and 64 RBIs between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season.
"I've just been trying to take everything in, learn, stay behind the scenes and be the best player I can be," McKinney said. "I'm excited. I'm here to do whatever I can to help the team."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.