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Inbox: Will Rays still limit McKay's innings?

Beat reporter Juan Toribio answers questions from Tampa Bay fans
@juanctoribio
September 9, 2019

Is Brendan McKay still on an innings limit for this year? If so, do you think he’ll be moved into a bulk/reliever role at some point soon, or will the Rays stick with a six-man rotation? -- Mark D. Between the Minors and big leagues, McKay has now thrown 113

Is Brendan McKay still on an innings limit for this year? If so, do you think he’ll be moved into a bulk/reliever role at some point soon, or will the Rays stick with a six-man rotation?
-- Mark D.

Between the Minors and big leagues, McKay has now thrown 113 innings, which is a career-high as a professional, surpassing the 78 1/3 innings he tossed in 2018. Because of the workload, the Rays are going to continue to be careful with their top pitching prospect, but due to injuries to other starters and a tight postseason race, the Rays will continue to use McKay, since they view him as being a key part of this run. Will he go seven innings and throw 100 pitches in a game? No. But he’s going to be called upon whenever needed.

Now, to your second question, I think it’s possible to see McKay paired with another starter, possibly Blake Snell when he returns and is only able to pitch one or two innings, but it’s more likely that McKay remains in a routine and comes in as a starter. The Rays could go to a six-man rotation, but since Tyler Glasnow is still getting stretched out and Snell has yet to return, it’s more likely for Tampa Bay to stick with Charlie Morton and Ryan Yarbrough, and then they’ll play the better matchups.

Will Glasnow be worked back up as a starter this year?
-- @JahstinMeadows

Yes. Glasnow got through two innings and threw 41 pitches on Sunday, which was a huge step in the right direction for the right-hander. He’ll be able to throw three or four innings in his next start and continue to get built up. He has around four more starts scheduled this season, which should be enough time for him to be full-go if the Rays make the postseason.

Will the Rays bring up Jake Cronenworth after the International League season wraps with the Governor's Cup?
-- Jacob L., Waukegan, Ill.

While he’s deserving, I don’t see the Rays calling up Cronenworth this season. The Rays already have some tough decisions to make with their 40-man roster in the offseason, and adding Cronenworth now would only make it tougher. With Kean Wong and Michael Brosseau already on the roster, I don’t see Tampa Bay making any more moves at second base, unless there’s an injury.

Of the September callups, who has the best chance of making the playoff roster? Nate Lowe? McKay? Daniel Robertson?
-- @JoshVega445

These three players could certainly make an impact in October, but I think it’ll depend on who the Rays play in the American League Wild Card Game and then in the AL Division Series, if they get there. If Tampa Bay makes the ALDS and faces the Yankees, I could see the club going with Robertson, due to his defensive flexibility and his right-handed bat against a left-handed-heavy pitching staff. If the opponent is Houston, Lowe could get a nod since Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke are all right-handers. McKay could make sense as a bulk-innings guy, especially if Snell has not been fully stretched out by that time.

Is it possible to see Brandon Lowe in the next couple weeks?
-- Nick L.

It’s a long shot, but there’s a chance. Lowe is scheduled to face Yonny Chirinos at some point during the Rays' road trip, and he has been hitting consistently in the batting cage. Now, any chance of Lowe returning will be determined by him being able to move on the field and run the bases. That’s going to be the next hurdle, and then it’ll be getting enough at-bats to get ready for meaningful games. Lowe, who is eligible to come off the 60-day injured list, has said he feels good after suffering a left quad injury that appeared to end his season, and he is hoping to give Tampa Bay something to think about when it's making decisions.

Who would start a potential AL Wild Card Game if the rotation is at 100 percent? Morton, Snell or Glasnow?
-- Rob

It’ll be an all-hands-on-deck effort for the Rays in the AL Wild Card Game, but it’ll be difficult to go with anyone that isn’t Morton. He has been the most consistent player for Tampa Bay this season, and he has the experience of pitching a big game. The Rays won’t be thinking about Game 1 of the ALDS when making their decision, since it won’t matter if they don’t get through the AL Wild Card Game on Oct. 2.

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