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2-way McKay goes 0 for 4 in MLB hitting debut with Rays

July 2, 2019
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Tampa Bay Rays' Brendan McKay grounds out to second base during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles Monday, July 1, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Tampa Bay Rays two-way player Brendan McKay went 0 for 4 in his major league hitting debut against the Baltimore Orioles, two days after winning his first game as a starting pitcher.

McKay was the designated hitter Monday night and batted eighth in the Rays’ 6-3 victory.

“I felt like I had some good at-bats,” he 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.”

The 23-year-old McKay grounded out to first with the bases loaded and two outs against Tom Eshelman to end the first inning. He also hit a fourth-inning grounder to second against Eshelman, who was making his big league debut.

McKay, playing for Louisville in a 2015 NCAA super regional, homered off Eshelman, then the Cal State Fullerton ace.

“To see him on the other side, it was kind of funny,” Eshelman said. “I knew what not to throw him because he hit a homer off me in that game. Yeah, congrats to him. To be able to do it two ways in the big leagues is pretty awesome. So, it was definitely a weird feeling facing him in a big league uniform, but it was fun.”

McKay hit a fielder’s choice grounder in the sixth against Miguel Castro and had a grounder to second off Jimmy Yacabonis during the eighth.

McKay got picked off second base in the sixth after reaching on the fielder’s choice.

McKay is the fourth player since 1913 to begin his career with a start as a pitcher and a non-pitcher within his first two games.

The others are Shohei Ohtani of the Angels (2018), Syd Cohen of the Washington Senators (1934) and Carl East, who pitched for St. Louis Browns in 1915 and played his second big league game in right field nine years later for the Senators.

McKay took a perfect game into the sixth inning in his big league debut Saturday against Texas. The left-hander was pulled after allowing one hit over six scoreless innings.

“We saw a really, really good pitching performance,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “If he can do that at the plate, we’ve got something working, I guess.”

McKay, a first baseman limited to DH this season, hit .216 (96 for 444) with 14 homers and 79 RBIs over three minor league seasons. After a promotion this year from Double-A Montgomery, he had a .265 average (13 for 49) with four homers and 10 RBIs at Triple-A Durham.

McKay is scheduled to pitch again Friday night against the AL East-leading New York Yankees.

“There’s satisfaction in knowing that you’re going to get a chance to do both,” he said.

McKay will be available to pinch-hit on days he doesn’t pitch or DH. He will throw a bullpen Tuesday.

“I’m still learning and asking questions kind of on the fly here,” Cash said.

The Rays have another two-way player on the horizon at Durham with Jake Cronenworth. The infielder entered Monday hitting .338 with nine homers and 38 RBIs, while allowing two unearned runs and four hits over 6 1/3 innings in six games as a pitcher.

Cronenworth has been an opener on the mound five times and last week started a game at shortstop before pitching 1 1/3 relief innings.

“Look at what he’s done offensively, and the pitching makes him that much more interesting of a player that can help a major league team,” Cash said.

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