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Expect the Blue Jays to give Billy McKinney a long look at first base

TAMPA — Billy McKinney heard the chirps from the first base dugout and realized they were being directed toward him, but even in a Grapefruit League activity this wasn’t the time for him to give in to the distraction.

Perhaps on an additional working day. But Monday the Blue Jays were being re-familiarizing McKinney with a place he has barely performed as a skilled: first base. So even as his previous teammates playfully questioned his vision from the nearby dugout, he tried to focus.

“It was a little hard keeping totally concentrated. I had guys from the dugout yelling at me, but it was fairly entertaining,” McKinney mentioned afterwards in the visiting clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field. “I felt relaxed more than there.”

Ben Nicholson-Smith and Arden Zwelling choose lovers within the Blue Jays and about MLB with news, evaluation and interviews.

At a time when bullpens are increasing and benches are scaled-down than at any time, groups need to have as much flexibility as possible from their place gamers. The Dodgers won consecutive National League pennants whilst transferring gamers about the diamond frequently, and other groups are now prioritizing flexibility, as well.

That is why the likes of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Cavan Biggio and Brandon Drury participate in all more than the diamond and why top prospect Bo Bichette saw some time at second base very last 12 months. In a way McKinney’s joining that mix, as well.

As a remaining-handed thrower, McKinney can only participate in at first or in the outfield, but he’s embracing the problems each positions existing, prioritizing his outfield operate but using frequent floor balls at first base as time permits. If it operates, the Blue Jays will have that much additional versatility. McKinney could not be Cody Bellinger out there just nevertheless, but he does present a measure of versatility for manager Charlie Montoyo.

“It makes it less complicated for a manager if additional guys can participate in distinctive positions,” Montoyo mentioned. “That’s one matter we have listed here.”

“Versatility’s fairly key in today’s activity,” added McKinney, who joined the Blue Jays in the trade that despatched J.A. Happ to New York very last July. “It’s hard to participate in 162, so guys just need to have breathers on their legs and just psychological times, as well. I have zero issue carrying out that. I’m relaxed.”

Toronto Blue Jays remaining fielder/first baseman Billy McKinney (28). (Nathan Denette/CP)

It is thanks to the Yankees that McKinney had a number of first base gloves helpful. Soon after the 2017 period, the Yankees asked him to incorporate first base again onto his resume. He had performed the place for the duration of his freshman and junior yrs of high school, and ahead of the 2013 draft he explained to groups that he would participate in there if required. At the time, the offer went nowhere.

“Everyone shot that down and mentioned ‘no, you’re an outfielder,’” McKinney recalled.

6 yrs afterwards the 24-12 months-old’s still an outfielder, and will possible get started the period in a remaining industry platoon with Teoscar Hernandez. Meanwhile, Justin Smoak will get most of the starts off at first base. But as Montoyo claims, Smoak will occasionally need to have a rest.

On those times, McKinney would be a candidate to start at first alongside with Brandon Drury and Kendrys Morales. While the 35-12 months-previous Morales isn’t as mobile as he used to be, his manager does not audio involved.

“He’s great,” Montoyo mentioned. “He hits.”

If required, Rowdy Tellez signifies an additional layer of depth at triple-A Buffalo, but even if McKinney hardly ever starts off a activity at first for the Blue Jays he could support them in an additional way.

“If Smoak’s on first in the eighth inning or seventh inning, you use a pinch runner, there goes McKinney and he can participate in first,” Montoyo explained. “So we’re fantastic.”

McKinney performed first for one inning very last 12 months under those precise circumstances. The Blue Jays pinch ran for Smoak trailing by one in the eighth on September 16, and McKinney moved from remaining to first soon after Toronto scored.

Even then, McKinney still has limited skilled working experience at first base. Over and above that one inning in September, he has all of 6 appearances at the place because likely pro and in the scenario that Montoyo’s outlining the score will be close and each run will issue.

That is why Montoyo would like to see McKinney participate in first ‘a lot’ in the Grapefruit League. If that familiarity returns, the Blue Jays will have additional versatility in the late innings of video games that issue.

In the meantime, however, it’s still spring coaching. For the up coming thirty day period or so Montoyo’s information for McKinney remains straightforward.

“Make guaranteed you’re completely ready.”

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