Tampa Bay Ray player Brendan McKay is hoping that he is one of the first of a possible trend in baseball. The rookie, who was called up from the minors last weekend, is a two-way player, something that was popularized last year by Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani.
More and more clubs are entertaining the idea of having a player pitch and be a bench player on off days. It is something McKay hopes catches on in MLB.
“There’s always going to be doubters or people that say it’s hard to be done or it can’t be done,” said McKay. “If you don’t have success, people are going to knock on you for that.”
Early Mixed Results
McKay was called up from the team’s Triple A affiliate Durham Bulls on Friday. The team has Tyler Glasnow injured and Blake Snell has struggled, so McKay was given his shot on Saturday.
In his major league debut against Texas, the 23-year-old took a perfect game into the sixth inning. His catcher, Travis d’Arnaud was impressed.
“Not only does he have 95 (mph) in his back pocket, but he’ll put it where he wants to,” said Rays catcher Travis d’Arnaud. “He’s so smart and, when he sees you cheating, he knows how to pitch to that.”
At his debut at the plate, however, he went 0-4 on Monday.
“I felt like I had some good at-bats,” McKay said. “Obviously, not the results you want. Now it’s just time to find holes in the defense and get your first hit out of the way.”
McKay pitched and played first base for the University of Louisville. He pitched in 20 games as a freshman, making 13 starts. He went 9–3 with a 1.77 ERA, 117 strikeouts and four saves. In 61 games as a first baseman, he hit .308 with four home runs and 34 RBI.
As a sophomore, McKay went 12-4 as a pitcher with a 2.30 ERA, and 128 strikeouts. He hit .333 with six home runs and 41 RBI. In his junior year he went 11-3 with a 2.56 ERA. At the plate he .341 with 18 homers and 57 RBI.
He was drafted after his junior year as the No. 4 pick by the Rays in that year’s draft and the club said they intended for him to pitch and be a designated hitter.
In the minors McKay both pitched and played first base and had success at both. He moved up quickly, and by 2019 he was with the Triple A Bulls.
Not everyone believes McKay will be able to be an effective two-way player, but the lefty is grateful he is getting the opportunity.
“There’s satisfaction in knowing that you’re going to get a chance to do both,” McKay said.
Rays manager Kevin Cash praised McKay’s debut pitching performance, but also said pulling off the two will be difficult.
“It’s tough to hit at this level,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “It’s tough to pitch at this level. I can’t imagine trying to do both and be successful at both.”
McKay remains undeterred. He gets his next start on Friday against the New York Yankees. He has not hit since his 0-4 performance on Monday, but hopes that he is influencing other players with a similar goal.
“Hopefully the success that I’ll have will spark guys,” McKay said. “Hey, if I’m doing this in high school, try to do it in college. If I’m doing it well in college, try to have a ball club let me do it. And keep doing it successfully until you have to make a choice on one or the other,”