MOOSIC — Billy McKinney was standing in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders clubhouse Friday afternoon. More than five hours before first pitch.
And he was wearing a gray Buffalo Bisons t-shirt and blue shorts and sneakers.
McKinney’s eight days removed from being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays organization, but this weekend he finds himself in familiar territory at PNC Field. He’s even bunking with his old roommate, Mark Payton, in his old house.
“Yeah, I just got a little lazy with the razor, I guess,” said McKinney, who was sporting some facial hair. “It’s great being back, seeing the guys, for sure. I miss them. It’s always nice to see your old teammates and they’re good players, good teammates, too.”
McKinney is used to joining new teams by now.
Toronto is the fourth organization he’s been a part of after all, joining the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics. But his teammates have made the transition easy for him. And it’s showing on the field.
McKinney is batting .259 with two doubles, two walks, two runs scored and an RBI in eight games with the Bisons. While the .259 batting average is still under his career average, which is .270, it’s the highest point it’s been at any stop this season.
“It’s been easy. My team, they’ve welcomed me with open arms,” McKinney said. “It’s been nice. They just did a really good job transitioning me. I look forward to the future with them.
“Just same old, same old. This is my fourth organization. Just kind of get to know the guys and just be myself. Kind of quiet I guess. They’re good people and it’s a really good team and a really good clubhouse.”
Losing McKinney was a tough pill to swallow for the RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell at the time. And the side effects still linger as the first-year RailRiders manager continues to rotate players in right field.
Mitchell has seen McKinney the most his since he was traded to the New York Yankees organization in July 2016. If there’s anything the outfielder has improved since he first joined Double-A Trenton, it’s been his maturity.
McKinney’s maturation process was the main thing regarding McKinney that stuck with Mitchell when he was discussing the outfielder in the aftermath of the July 26 trade.
“Really has matured, a lot, into a person that handles adversity better. He still needs to work on that, but he’s just competitive and a hard worker,” Mitchell said. “Every since we got him, he’s been working hard and he’s played hard and he’s always played a good right field. He always has. There’s some things he needs to work on that he knows. He’ll continue to do it and Toronto’s getting a good closer.”
McKinney made his debut in Buffalo on July 30, and a day later he was joined by the top prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Even though Guerrero Jr. is four years younger than McKinney, who is still just 23, the former RailRider has enjoyed his time around the top prospect and has came away impressed.
“It’s been a lot of fun. He is a great player and it’s actually a joy to see him play and go about his business,” McKinney said. “I really enjoy getting to know him as a person. He’s just a great human being and he has some much talent. The sky’s the limit for him. It’s going to be incredible to see what he does in his career and I look forward to seeing it.
“That’s what’s very impressive to me — he’s very mature for his age. On and off the field, he’s just very mature — you can tell. He has a great approach and it’s really exciting to watch.”
But now that he’s back in what was his home for parts of the last two seasons, McKinney’s going to soak in the time he has in PNC Field. Even if part of it was spent during a rainout Friday.
And even if it means his friends and ex-teammates make dozens of jokes that he should get out of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre clubhouse because he’s not on the team anymore.
“Nah, it’s fine,” McKinney said as one of the coaches asked why he was doing an interview in the RailRiders’ clubhouse. “I’m just glad to be here and see everybody. It’s always a joy to be around these guys.”
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle