NEW YORK—The taxi squad is a necessary addition for the 2020 season. Each team can take as many as five players, one of whom must be a catcher, on road trips.
It’s a way of making sure injured players can be replaced on the 28-man roster without resorting to commercial air travel, which Major League Baseball is trying to avoid during the pandemic.
Taxi-squad players dress and work out before games but, with the exception of a catcher who can be used in the bullpen to warm up pitchers, can’t be in uniform for games.
It’s a way for Ryan McKenna to soak up some big league experience.
McKenna, who was added to the 40-man roster last fall, is a 23-year-old outfielder, and this six-day trip to New York is the first time he’s traveled with a major league team.
“It’s been a fun experience, and traveling to New York, it’s a great city,” McKenna said in a video conference call on Thursday. “It’s been fun so far, and it’s good to be around the guys.”
McKenna was the Orioles’ fourth-round draft choice in 2015, and had a terrific half-season at High-A Frederick in 2018, hitting .377 in 67 games.
His promotion to Double-A Bowie wasn’t as smooth. McKenna hit .239 in 60 games. Last year, he returned to the Baysox, and hit only .232 with nine home runs and 54 RBIs.
McKenna was with nearly all of the players on the active roster during spring training, and he says that he’s learned a few things.
“There’s a lot of professional attitudes here,” McKenna said. “This is the big leagues, so the way they go about it is a good example. On the baseball side, they’re very diligent in their work. [Hitting coach] Don Long has been doing great stuff with us, he’s adopted me into [his group]. It’s good, just bouncing ideas off of him, transitioning from where I was at the alternate site.”
McKenna is closer to the big leagues now than he’s ever been, and hopes his moment isn’t far away.
“I’m very positive, and I’m optimistic and praying that the opportunity for me comes as soon as it can,” McKenna said. “I feel confident if and when the guys need me that I’m ready to contribute to a winning ballclub here in Baltimore.”
McKenna was drafted along with some of the players who have keyed the Orioles’ spurt in recent weeks. DJ Stewart and Ryan Mountcastle were both drafted in the first round, and Cedric Mullins in the 13th. He’s also been a teammate of Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer.
“The 2015 draft class is well-represented this year,” McKenna said. “It’s pretty fun to see, playing with all these guys in so many games and so much time, it kind of brings hope to a lot of guys.
“I’m pulling for them as much as I can. It’s been fun to see them win.”
Setting the rotation Alex Cobb, who has been on the injured list since September 4 when he was scratched from a scheduled start, will return to the rotation on Friday, manager Brandon Hyde said.
Cobb, who will start the first game of Friday’s doubleheader, has been able to throw while on the injured list, Hyde said.
Kremer starts on Saturday and John Means will start Sunday.
Harvey still short on experience: Hunter Harvey gave up a home run to the Mets’ Pete Alonso on his first pitch in the eighth inning on Wednesday night.
Hyde points out that Harvey truly hasn’t been very much in the big leagues. Over the last two seasons, he’s pitched only 11 1/3 innings, and has a 2.38 ERA. Alonso’s home run is the second he’s given up in his short major league career.
“You’re going to have growing pains,” Hyde said. “It’s not going to be the last homer he gives up. He’s going to give up a lot more. He’s going to give up the lead many more times in his career.
“I love watching him pitch in a tie game at Citi Field against the middle of their order. I think that’s fantastic. It didn’t work out [Wednesday] night. I like the way he rebounded after it. It’s something he can take and put in his pocket for the rest of his career to learn from.”
Game postponed: The Orioles-Yankees game was postponed, and will be played as part of a doubleheader on Friday beginning at 4:05 p.m. Both games will be seven innings.
Cobb pitches the first game, Akin the second game.