Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The Los Angeles Dodgers had three rookies make their MLB debut during the 2020 regular season, with the last being Zach McKinstry.
He joined the team during the middle of September as a corresponding move to Joc Pederson being placed on the family emergency leave list. McKinstry made a pinch-hit appearance three consecutive games, beginning Sept. 16.
He was hitless in those at-bats and made his first career MLB start against the Colorado Rockies in the finale of a seven-game road trip. McKinstry played right field and went 2-for-4 with a run scored and double in the Dodgers’ loss.
McKinstry was optioned the following day as Pederson returned, and it marked the end of his season. Despite impressing last season and carrying that momentum into Spring Training and Summer Camp, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts ruled out McKinstry potentially earning a spot on the postseason roster.
The 25-year-old nonetheless remained with the club as a member of the taxi squad. And though his time up in the Majors was brief, McKinstry valued the experience and was appreciative of advice Mookie Betts and Justin Turner provided.
“When I would come up on the taxi squad, Mookie Betts would talk to me a little bit about outfield. Just take those things over there (to alternate site) and try to work on them. With at-bats, just trying to stay patient,” McKinstry explained.
Turner sought McKinstry out after his first at-bat. “J.T. was talking to me after my at-bat and he was like, ‘Hey man, I struck out in my first at-bat too,’” McKinstry recalled. “He was just telling me about his story, his first hit, his first start and all that stuff.
“It definitely helps having a veteran come pat you on the back and tell you everything is going to be all right. He was in the same spot as you one time and now he’s a 10-year big leaguer. That’s always great to have.”
After going hitless in three pinch-hit appearances, McKinstry doubled in the first at-bat of his start against the Rockies. It sent the Dodgers dugout into celebration as they called for the ball to be collected.
With super utility man Kiké Hernandez a free agent, there would appear to be a reasonable chance McKinstry assumes that role next season. Even if Hernandez is re-signed, the Dodgers would figure to give McKinstry more opportunities than he saw this year.
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