Even the most famous two-way player, Babe Ruth, played only two seasons, 1918 and 1919 with Boston, as a regular in the field and on the mound. (He scattered five pitching appearances across 15 years with the Yankees.)
“I think a lot of guys don’t want to waste the time,” McKay said. “Like if one is behind the other, they don’t want to, hypothetically, get stuck somewhere waiting for one to catch up before they move. Or teams may not want to hold a guy back, if there’s one clear-cut way.”
That point underscores McKay’s biggest challenge, perhaps even more than staying healthy: Since he is essentially two players in one, his skills must stay relatively equal to move up at the same pace. He wants badly to succeed at both, he said, but he will not stand in the way of his own progress.
“It’s like in the draft situation,” McKay said. “If say they wanted to say, ‘Hey, you can go to the big leagues if you want to be a pitcher,’ you’re not going to say no. At one point there’s going to be a situation that presents itself that you’re going to have to pick. If you’ve got that opportunity to get into the big leagues, I think you’re going to take it.”
For now, there is no need to choose. The minor leagues are a laboratory for a team like the Rays, and the game will decide when to end the experiment — if it ends at all.
“When the speed of the game gets to the point where he can’t handle one or the other, then we’ll know,” said Szekely, the hitting coach. “And if it doesn’t, then we’re going to have a pitcher and a hitter in the big leagues that’s going to be productive on both sides. Now is just the fun time to sit here and see what he can do.”