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By Brian Danuff 03/08/2019

First impressions are important. Billy McKinney learned that the hard way.

The 24-year-old outfielder received his first call to the big leagues last year while with the New York Yankees. In just the second game of his MLB career, McKinney brutally collided with the outfield wall as he tried to make a leaping catch. He ended up spraining the AC joint in his right shoulder and was sidelined for nearly two months.

Looking back, McKinney admits he was trying to do too much, too fast. “I was trying to make a play, being the young, new guy.” McKinney said. “I was trying to make a statement and open some eyes.”

McKinney recovered, but never played another game for the Yankees. At last year’s trade deadline, New York sent McKinney and infielder Brandon Drury to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for starting pitcher J.A. Happ.

McKinney settled in nicely in Toronto. He hit .252/.320/.470 in 36 games. This year, he is gunning for the starting left field job and hoping to impress new Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, who he calls a “baseball genius.”

Sabermetric system PECOTA projects the Blue Jays to win just 76 games this season, but the doubters are a source of motivation for McKinney. “It just gives you something to strive for.” McKinney said. “We have the talent, and I’m looking forward to us trying to bring a World Series to Toronto.”