McKay's on the way to Majors

Rays No. 2 prospect expected to make first start Saturday

Brendan McKay will carry a career 1.85 ERA in the Minors into his Major League debut Saturday. (Chris Robertson/MiLB.com)

By Michael Avallone / MiLB.com | June 28, 2019 6:01 PM

Two years and 15 days after he was selected with the fourth overall pick, Brendan McKay is reportedly a Major Leaguer.

Tampa Bay's second-ranked prospect was promoted from Triple-A Durham on Thursday following a half-season of being nearly unhittable. McKay is set to make the start against Texas in his Major League debut Saturday at Tropicana Field.

"I think right now we'll probably take it start by start," Rays manager Kevin Cash said Friday on MLB Network Radio. "I'm not sure exactly how we're going to navigate all of this. We arrived in the St. Pete/Tampa area [on Thursday] and I know we're going to put our heads together to see if we can map out the rest of the plan until the break. We have a lot to discuss."

Video: Durham's McKay picks up fifth K

A two-way player when he was drafted out of Louisville in 2017, MLB.com's No. 23 overall prospect turned into one of the Minors' most dominating pitchers. McKay began the year with Double-A Montgomery before he was promoted to Triple-A on May 26. Through 13 appearances, including 11 starts, the southpaw went 6-0 with a 1.22 ERA, an 0.80 WHIP and 88 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings. Opponents batted .166 off McKay, who will enter the Majors with a 12-2 record, a 1.85 ERA and a 212-to-34 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 38 career outings.

As a hitter, the 23-year-old compiled a .216/.348/.356 slash line with 32 extra-base hits, 79 RBIs and 64 runs scored in 149 games as a first baseman and designated hitter. He batted .265 with a .951 OPS, four homers and 18 RBIs in 49 at-bats with Durham, but his pitching earned him the shot in the bigs.

"There are a lot of people that have talked about his development. It's a very unique case," Cash said. "There's a lot of unknown and we're learning on the fly. He's on the roster, so I don't know why he won't be available to hit throughout the time that he's on our roster, but we're just going to have to see how a lot of it unfolds."

The Rays' original hope was to develop the native of Darlington, Pennsylvania into a two-way player to maximize his potential and roster flexibility. However, the organization made the decision to pull McKay from the field this past offseason, limiting his opportunities as a hitter to the designated hitter role so he could focus more on his pitching.

2019 MiLB include

"I think [this season's] been going pretty well," McKay told MiLB.com on May 23. "The adaptation is just get ahead of hitters and stay ahead of hitters, really. Don't give them any life at the plate. When you've got guys down, put them away. Even if they do battle back and get it even or a positive count for them, you still have to make your pitch."

The 6-foot-2, 212-pound hurler allowed an unearned run on three hits and three walks while striking out five in five innings during his final start for the Bulls last Saturday. That continued a string of stingy outings during which he's surrendered three earned runs over his previous eight appearances spanning 42 frames.

Overall, McKay didn't surrender more than one run in 11 of his 13 outings in 2019.

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

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