McKinney doubles twice in Double-A debut

Cubs' No. 8 prospect scores run, adds RBI in Smokies' rout of Biscuits

Billy McKinney joined Tennessee after leading the Carolina League in all three slash categories. (Andrew Green/Tennessee Smokies)

By Tyler Maun / MiLB.com | May 15, 2015 12:38 AM

It was setting up to be an early Wednesday night at Billy McKinney's Myrtle Beach apartment. After his Class A Advanced Pelicans game was postponed due to the Mudcats' bus accident, McKinney returned home to relax for the evening. A missed call changed all of it.

"I was back at my apartment with my roommates and we were just hanging out," McKinney said. "I got a call from a random number, missed the first call and I got a call right back. It was my manager Mark Johnson. He called me and told me I was getting called up. I was just ecstatic."

The Cubs' No. 8 prospect debuted in the Southern League with a two-double night, scoring one run and driving in another as Double-A Tennessee rolled by Montgomery, 8-1 at Smokies Park on Thursday.

"It was exciting," McKinney said. "I just tried to stay calm, stick with my approach. Playing with these guys, it's real easy to have fun. It's a lot of fun to watch these guys hit."

After lining out to right field in his first at-bat, McKinney drove a double to left in the fourth inning and scored on Wes Darvill's sacrifice bunt three batters later. McKinney followed a sixth-inning groundout with a double to center, driving home Willson Contreras.

Tennessee's talented lineup racked up 14 hits in the win, and the Smokies' 3-4-5 hitters -- Chicago's No. 4 prospect Kyle Schwarber, No. 15 Dan Vogelbach and Contreras - combined to go 7-for-12 with a double, six runs scored and three RBIs.

"I just try to pick their brains, to be honest," McKinney said of his new teammates. "I try to get smarter with everything they do. Watching Vogelbach and Schwarber, they just have great at-bats every time. It's fun watching them and learning from them."

Tennessee didn't just impress at the plate. Smokies left fielder and No. 5 Cubs prospect Albert Almora made a leaping grab at the wall with Tampa Bay's No. 29 prospect Johnny Field leading off the fourth. In the ninth, Chicago's No. 21 prospect Jacob Hannemann made an unconventional over-the-shoulder diving grabto snare a liner off the bat of No. 25 Rays prospect Patrick Leonard in center field.

"Hannemann's catch was unbelievable," McKinney said. "I have no idea how he caught it."

By chance, Thursday night also afforded McKinney an opportunity to catch up with an old friend. Montgomery shortstop Daniel Robertson -- Tampa Bay's No. 2 prospect, who went 3-for-4 for the Biscuits -- was roommates with McKinney last year at Class A Advanced Stockton in the Oakland system.

"When I got in last night, he came to my hotel room, and we chatted for a little while, caught up," McKinney said. "I couldn't be happier for him. I hope nothing but the best for him, so it was really cool."

The Dallas, Texas native departed the Carolina League as the circuit's leader in average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage (.340/.432/.544) and checked in second with 25 RBIs. His first glimpse of Southern League pitching gave him an idea of what's to come.

"I'll be able to tell more as I see more pitching here soon," McKinney said. "The pitchers tonight, they threw really well. I thought they were great pitchers, both guys that I saw. I was just happy to get a couple hits."

With ample run support, Tennessee's Ivan Pineyro (3-1) allowed just one run on four hits while striking out seven over five innings.

Jared Mortensen (2-2) took the loss, charged with four runs on seven hits over six innings.

Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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