Jays Journal contributor Tyson Shushkewich had a chance to connect with left-handed starter Anthony Kay, discussing everything from being acquired by the Blue Jays mid-season, to how it felt to be playing for the MLB’s only Canadian baseball team.
At the start of last season, Anthony Kay was a New York Met, a team that had drafted him twice over his high school and college career. By the end of the season, not only would he find himself with the Toronto Blue Jays organization, he would also find himself in the big leagues.
Anthony Kay was drafted by the New York Mets in both 2013 and 2016, with the 2016 selection coming through the supplemental picks in the first round. He would end up signing with the organization for $1.1 million, an amount that saw an unfortunate decrease due to a tear in his UCL that was discovered during physicals with the Mets organization.
Kay would find himself missing the 2017 campaign recovering from Tommy John surgery, and would go on to pitch through three levels of the Mets farm system over the next two seasons before being dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays.
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Midway through the 2019 season, Kay and his fellow prospect Simeon Woods-Richardson would find themselves packing their bags for the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization, with starting pitcher Marcus Stroman heading the other way. Both players were featured on the Mets’ top ten prospect list before being dealt, which was a beneficial sign for the Blue Jays management who were looking for talented prospects to help facilitate the rebuild.
“I was at the mall with my girlfriend and we were about to see a movie, and the news broke out that the Mets had traded for Stroman. I was asking around who we got, and I found it was me and Simeon.”
When asked about joining the Blue Jays organization, Kay added, ” I was a bit shocked at first, but I realized how good of an opportunity this is with all the other young guys; I was excited to come on over”.
After the trade, Kay would find himself in AAA with the Buffalo Bisons, where he would go on to start seven games, compiling a 2-2 record with 39 strikeouts, 22 walks, and a 2.50 ERA over 36 innings pitched.
After his first two games, Kay settled into his new digs in Buffalo and began pitching extremely well, striking out 5+ batters over his next four games, and also giving up no earned runs in three out of four of those appearances. He also pitched deep into games, going 6.0 or more innings three times before being called up to the Blue Jays roster to make his big league debut.
He would make his first MLB appearance for the team on September 7th against the Tampa Bay Rays in Tampa.
“It was awesome, all my friends and family were able to fly down and it was really cool to have them all there to support me. Being able to compete against those guys was really fun and definitely an interesting challenge. I kind of went right after them and I wasn’t really worried about getting hit around, just pitching to the best of my ability and whatever happens, happens. At the end of the day, it was pretty good and I was very happy with my first start”.
With a two-run 4th inning the only blemish on the box score, Kay pitched extremely well in his debut, even making a highlight reel strikeout against Rays outfielder Austin Meadows, who ducked away from a sharp curveball that eventually found the strike-zone. Kay would also tie the Blue Jays franchise record with Trent Thornton for most strikeouts in an MLB debut (8).
He would then make his home debut in Toronto six days later, pitching against the playoff bound New York Yankees.
“This was the first time I had been there (Toronto) and the first time I had ever been outside of the country (USA). It was interesting to get to explore around a bit like going up the CN Tower with my girlfriend. My first two series I also had to pitch in domes; that was the first time I ever did that, which was definitely a cool experience. ”
Anthony Kay would pitch in two more games before the season concluded, starting against the New York Yankees and following opener Wilmer Font against the Baltimore Orioles later in the month. The game against the Orioles would also go down as Kay’s first win at the highest level when he threw 4.0 innings while giving up two earned runs, striking out three, and walking one batter.
“Overall I was pretty happy with what I did. My goal at the beginning of the year was to make it up to the big leagues, and once I was up there, I wanted to prove that I belonged there and that I should be able to stay there. I think I was able to do all that in the short period of time I was up there”.
With the off-season already a few months underway for the rebuilding Toronto Blue Jays, Kay is back home in Long Island training for the upcoming season. “Towards the end (of the season), I was working with Pete (Walker) expanding on my mechanics. Being able to repeat that I think is when I am at my best, so I want to keep working on that because it helps all three of my pitches be consistent”.
On Twitter, Anthony Kay can be found through his handle @TonyBuckets18, where he is interacting with fans and fellow Blue Jays prospects on Canadian stereotypes and food to try. When asked about pressure from fans and the media, Kay was pretty open about how he values the Blue Jays fanbase, “I think it’s fun interacting with all the fans on social media, being able to reach out to them. When I was a little kid, it definitely would have been cool to interact with some of the players that I watched growing up. I don’t feel any pressure from social media, the game has enough pressure in it already”.
While he only experienced a few games at the MLB level, Anthony Kay will get another chance to compete for a rotation spot this upcoming spring, as the rebuilding Toronto Blue Jays will have a few spots open in the starting rotation for some of the Blue Jays internal prospects.