Rays' McKay eager to pitch and bat vs. Padres

Field Level Media

Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Brendan McKay gets the opportunity he has been waiting for Tuesday night in San Diego.

The fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft will receive the opportunity to hit and pitch in the same game for the first time in his brief major league career.

In fact, it will be the first time he has had the opportunity to pitch and hit in the same game since he played for the University of Louisville.

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"It's going to be exciting," McKay said Monday afternoon at Petco Park, where the Tampa Bay Rays are playing for the first time since the ballpark's inaugural season of 2004. "I haven't done it since 2017. To be able to get out there and be able to contribute with the bat will be exciting."

McKay, 23, will get the opportunity because the American League playoff-contending Rays are playing in a National League park in interleague play.

McKay is 2-2 on the mound with a 4.55 ERA is six starts since being promoted from Triple-A on June 29. His second major league appearance was as a designated hitter on July 1, when he went 0-for-4 against the Baltimore Orioles, but he hasn't batted again since.

In 462 minor league at-bats over three seasons, McKay hit .214 with a .342 on-base percentage, a .355 slugging percentage, 15 homers and 80 RBIs.

Neither McKay nor the Rays are quite sure what the future holds for the 6-foot-2, 210-pound left-hander who was named the Golden Spikes Award winner as the nation's top baseball player in 2017. Among his sweep of national awards was the John Olerud Award as the top two-way performer.

And there's the rub. Is McKay a starting pitcher or a first baseman?

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said it's not time to make that decision. And McKay is on record as saying he wants to do both.

On Tuesday, he will try to help on offense and defense as the Rays look to stretch their winning streak to five games.

McKay will be batting against Padres left-hander Eric Lauer (6-8, 4.51 ERA). Neither of the starters has ever faced the other team.

McKay has worked 29 2/3 innings in his six pitching starts, giving up 15 runs on 33 hits and three walks with 33 strikeouts for a 1.21 WHIP and a .273 opponents' batting average. After allowing a total of three runs in his first three starts, McKay has given up 12 in his past three outings.

Lauer, like the rest of the Padres' rotation, is being asked to pitch deeper into games. He has completed six innings only once in five starts since returning from the bereavement list after the All-Star break following the death of his father. He hasn't completed seven innings since June 21 and has gone that deep in only three of his 21 starts.

Lauer has a 6.87 ERA since returning on July 19.

"We've been encouraged by Eric's last couple outings," Padres manager Andy Green said recently. "He's been through a lot. But the last couple times out, he's been pitching with his command and mix."

--Field Level Media

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