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Versatile McCoy willing, able to pitch in

A peek into Mike McCoy’s cramped locker inside the 51s’ clubhouse at Cashman Field did not reveal a catcher’s mitt.

But don’t be surprised if the utility man has to borrow one and crouch behind the plate some night.

McCoy, 31, has played every position except catcher and first base during his 11-year pro career, including a memorable appearance as a pitcher last year for the Toronto Blue Jays.

If the choice were his, McCoy would be an everyday shortstop in the major leagues. But with the Blue Jays set at that position with Yunel Escobar and 45-year-old Omar Vizquel backing him up, McCoy will need to find another route to return to Rogers Centre. He’s primarily playing second base for Las Vegas.

“I’ve just got to stay patient,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen, so you stay ready.”

McCoy, who was 0-for-4 with two errors at third base in the 51s’ 7-6, 10-inning loss to Nashville on Thursday, has played 138 games in the majors, 126 with the Blue Jays since 2010.

Last year he made seven trips between Las Vegas and Toronto. One wonders whether he’s on a first-name basis with Canada customs officials at Lester B. Pearson International Airport.

“No,” McCoy said with a laugh. “But I know how to get around that airport.”

He also knows his way around the diamond. He has played shortstop, second base and third along with every outfield spot. McCoy said second base remains the most challenging.

“It’s a different throw, a different pivot and it takes some adjusting,” he said. “But I’m much more comfortable now, having worked over there enough.”

McCoy has an above-average throwing arm, which came in handy during one of his Blue Jays stints last year. On June 11, a few days after McCoy informed bench coach Don Wakamatsu he’d be willing to pitch, manager John Farrell called on him in the ninth inning of a 16-4 loss to Boston. McCoy moved from second base to the mound.

The result? The only 1-2-3 inning by a Blue Jays pitcher all afternoon, with McCoy setting down Carl Crawford on a pop to shortstop, Marco Scutaro on a fly to left and J.D. Drew on a grounder to second.

The free-swinging Red Sox presumably were in a rush to get the game over, but McCoy threw nine of 12 pitches for strikes.

“You never want to get too excited coming into a situation like there where you’re getting beat so badly,” McCoy said. “But yeah, it was a fun experience. I just tried to throw it slow so they couldn’t time it.”

McCoy hasn’t pitched since, but 51s manager Marty Brown said he wouldn’t hesitate to use him in a pinch.

“I might go to (infielder Chris) Woodward first, but (McCoy) would probably be next,” Brown said. “What I love about Mike is he has a tendency to make things happen. He always puts together good at-bats and he’s always got his head in the game. As a manager, you love having guys like that.

“I was a utility player myself. I could see him having a career in baseball after he’s through playing if he wants it.”

McCoy’s not sure he wants it, saying he’ll continue to play as long as he’s healthy and enjoying it. But he isn’t ruling it out.

“I’ve got two young kids and I’m away from them enough as it is,” he said. “But if I could stay home and scout after I’m through or coach the local high school team, that might be something I’d look into.”

For the moment, as much as McCoy wants to get back to Toronto, he’s enjoying his time in Las Vegas. He is batting .235 for the 51s, who are 24-23 after completing a 4-4 homestand.

“This is one of the best teams I’ve ever been on,” he said. “These guys have a lot of character and there’s a good chemistry in the clubhouse. It’s a good mix of veterans and young guys and everyone gets along and trusts each other.”

With that kind of trust, McCoy could even borrow a catcher’s mitt without having to ask.

■ NOTES – The 51s begin an eight-game trip tonight at Salt Lake, where they’ll play four games through Monday before moving on to Tucson for four. … Nashville catcher Paul Phillips moved from the visitors’ dugout to the 51s’ side Thursday. Before the game, the Milwaukee Brewers traded him to the Blue Jays for cash considerations.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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