BOSTON—Orioles outfielder Ryan McKenna has yet to play at Fenway Park and, before he does, he had one thing on his mind. McKenna, a 24-year-old from Dover, New Hampshire, couldn’t wait to sign his name inside the Green Monster, the Fenway left field wall.
McKenna, Ryan Mountcastle and Ramón Urías all grabbed Sharpies, walked to left and signed their names inside the wall.
Expected to spend the bulk of the season at Triple-A Norfolk, where he was optioned twice, McKenna has spent most of his time with the Orioles, playing in 60 games.
“It really didn’t faze me at all,” McKenna said about being optioned. “I love to play this game. Obviously, you want to be here, and it’s the ultimate goal, to succeed and help Baltimore win a World Series. That’s my goal here.”
McKenna has hit .209 with a homer and six RBIs. He played just 17 games with Norfolk in his time away from the Orioles, hitting .269 with six homers and 19 RBIs. He has helped the Orioles with his baserunning and defense.
“They just wanted me to get reps and at-bats, which I completely understand, so no matter where I was this year, my mindset didn’t change. I had to go forward and be prepared for the games, no matter how many I played. “
In 2018, McKenna, who was the Orioles’ fourth-round selection in the 2015 draft, hit .377 with eight homers and 37 RBIs in 67 games at High-A Frederick. He was promoted to Double-A Bowie and hit just .239 in 60 games. McKenna returned to the Baysox in 2019 and hit only .232 with nine homers and 54 RBIs.
McKenna was placed on the 40-man roster after the 2019 season, and then 2020 came. He went to the alternate site at Bowie and joined the Orioles on several road trips as part of the taxi squad last year, but was not activated.
“Covid kind of threw a wrench in a lot of guys’ developments,” McKenna said. “It’s just circumstantial. That just wanted me to play. The year’s been great. A lot of learning every day. No matter what position you’re in in baseball, there’s stuff to learn. It’s just taking in that information.”
McKenna has been with the team since July 21st and proven himself useful as a reserve outfielder, defensive replacement and pinch-runner.
“I think my time here has been good, just understanding the role I’m in, understanding the dynamic of the team has been what my main focus has been on,” McKenna said. “That’s all you can take away from this year, just being ready for any opportunity.”
McKenna is part of a team that’s on an eight-game losing streak. From June 9th-17th, they also dropped eight straight, and from May 18-May 31, they lost 14 in a row, equaling the second-longest losing streak in team history.
“This game is a really hard game. We’re playing in a tough division,” McKenna said. “If it was easy, everyone would do it. We are young. We don’t make an excuse for ourselves. We want to go out and compete every day. We’re talented enough to compete in this division.
“We’ve won a lot of really good games. We’ve played really good baseball. I think the consistency is what’s going to come with experience. I think, going forward, is going to be our focus. We know we can win in this division, at this level. That’s the ultimate goal.”
McKenna was a Red Sox fan growing up so close to Boston.
“It was tough not to,” he said. His parents are coming to the series. For the Orioles’ first three games of the season, McKenna was on the taxi squad, and he was activated for the first time on April 5th at Yankee Stadium after Austin Hays had suffered a hamstring injury.
McKenna has started just 27 of the 60 games he’s been in, but he has been valuable in his role.
“Situational awareness, I think that’s the biggest thing,” McKenna said. “Understanding where the score’s at, who’s throwing, where the lineup’s coming up, who you could potentially go in for and just being really into the game, into what’s going on.
“Physically, it’s pretty straightforward. You go and stretch and make sure you’re ready to go. I’ve always been a guy, who, knock on wood, always stayed pretty healthy and understands a lot of the stuff to keep healthy … staying ready mentally and physically is probably the biggest thing.”
Mountcastle update: Ryan Mountcastle, who’s eligible to come off the seven-day concussion injured list on Sunday, is with the team on the trip.
“Nothing new besides making improvement and feeling better today,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “The last few days, he’s progressively gettering better. Timeline, we’re still not sure. He was on the treadmill, getting some running in, and responded well. He’s trending in the right direction.”
Notes: Ramón Urías, who’s been hampered by an upper leg injury, isn’t in the lineup. “He’s just day-to-day right now,” Hyde said. “Just sore, just giving him another day.” … Norfolk catcher Nick Ciuffo is the only player on the taxi squad for the road trip to Boston and Tampa Bay.