Brendan McKay had a stronger debut season on the mound, but he continued his torrid start at the plate Saturday night, reaching base four times and driving in three runs in Class A Bowling Green's 11-2 victory over Dayton.
MLB.com's No. 25 overall prospect went 2-for-4 with a pair of walks to hike his on-base percentage to .727 in his first two full-season games. McKay has drawn a Midwest League-leading five walks; last summer, he walked 21 times in 36 games with Class A Short Season Hudson Valley.
The Rays' No. 3 prospect also shares the league lead with four RBIs, tacking on to his run-scoring single in the Hot Rods' season opener. McKay began his productive Saturday night in the fifth inning, when he singled home Vidal Brujan to put Bowling Green ahead for good, 3-2.
Gameday box score
Even after the experience of a professional season under his belt, it was the learning curve from big league camp that is making a difference, according to Bowling Green manager Craig Albernaz.
"He's put a lot of work in during Spring Training," he said. "It's no secret that he's doing both [pitching and hitting], so he has to juggle doing both. That takes a lot of work. He's putting the time in and starting to feel comfortable."
The 22-year-old drove in Eleardo Cabrera and Zach Rutherford with another single to left field in the ninth.
Last season, his first as a pro, McKay hit .232 with four homers and a .725 OPS in the New York-Penn League. On the mound, the University of Louisville product threw 20 innings in six appearances, posting a 1.80 ERA and 0.75 WHIP while holding opponents to a .149 average.
"It's been a learning curve for everyone," said Albernaz, who also managed McKay at Hudson Valley. "Even though he's been doing it his whole life, it's the first time he's done it playing a game every day. In college, you have a day off and play on the weekend."
Albernaz has seen the lefty's development firsthand. While his patience at the plate is getting results this season in the form of walks, it's a part of his game that's carried over from last summer.
"There's a reason why everyone loved him out of college as a hitter," the skipper said. "He has great power and people know about that, but he also has a great eye at the plate."
Video: McKay's two-run knock for Bowling Green
With an extremely limited number of players attempting to pitch and play another position, there are unique challenges to managing and monitoring someone like McKay. But even as he's had to process double the amount of information as he's transitioned to the pro game, his approach has remained the same.
"Last year, he was so patient, grinding out at-bats, waiting for a pitch to hit and expanding the zone," Albernaz. "This year, he got reps in Spring Training that really helped. He's finding holes. Last year, his average didn't speak too well, but he hit the ball hard. He just didn't find any holes. This year, he's finding those holes, we're seeing that."
The fourth overall selection in the 2017 Draft played first base on Saturday night. McKay is scheduled to make his Midwest League pitching debut Monday, when the Hot Rods open a series against South Bend. He'll pitch every fifth day and stay in the field on days he's not on the bump.
Rutherford also had a pair of hits for the Hot Rods, while Carl Chester went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI.