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Rays playoff roster surprise: Shane McClanahan

Key hitters Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Diaz also are on the roster, having recovered from hamstring strains.
Rays rookie pitcher Shane McClanahan warms up on the mound in the bullpen area with Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder (on right) watching during a player workout in January at Tropicana Field.
Rays rookie pitcher Shane McClanahan warms up on the mound in the bullpen area with Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder (on right) watching during a player workout in January at Tropicana Field. [ DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Sep. 29, 2020
Updated Sep. 29, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' 28-man roster for the opening round of the playoffs includes quite a surprise: Shane McClanahan.

The 23-year-old lefty pitcher, a 2018 first-round pick from USF, will be making his major-league debut, having spent 2019 at the Class A and Double-A levels. He would be the first pitcher in major-league history to make his debut in a postseason game.

“I’m excited to go out there and help this team hopefully win the World Series,” McClanahan said. “I think excited is the word to use there. ... I’m just here to help the team. ... Whether it’s the postseason, regular season, I just want to put this team in a position to win.”

Also included on the roster for the best-of-three American League Wild Card Series against the Blue Jays are infielders Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Diaz, with the first game today at 5:07 p.m. at Tropicana Field (TBS).

Dropped from the season-ending active roster but eligible to be added in future rounds (or to replace an injured player) are third catcher Kevan Smith, lefty reliever Ryan Sherriff and rookie lefty starter Josh Fleming.

To make rook on the 40-man roster for McClanahan, the Rays designated lefty Sean Gilmartin for assignment.

McClanahan impressed the Rays through original spring training, the 2.0 session in July and alternate camp workouts. A minor knee injury may have kept him from making his debut during the regular season. His high-quality stuff and ability to work multiple innings could be valuable to the Rays, who lost several relievers to injury this season, as the series is played over three straight days.

Plus there is a surprise element as teams have not seen McClanahan, who worked his way last year from Class A Bowling Green to advanced Class A Charlotte to Double-A Montgomery. Overall he was 11-6, 3.36 with 154 strikeouts in 120-2/3 innings.

Adding a young pitching prospect to the postseason roster is not totally new for the Rays. The McClanahan move is similar to 2008 when David Price was included and played a key role. Price, the 2007 top pick, worked his way from Class A to Double-A to Triple-A in 2008, then made five appearances in the majors before the end of the regular season.

Diaz and Choi were sidelined with hamstring strains. Diaz has been out since Sept. 1. Choi was hurt Sept. 12.

Both had been making slow progress working out in Port Charlotte and improved over the past week as they passed tests of taking batting practice off coaches, getting at-bats off live pitching, fielding ground balls and running the bases.

They participated in a workout Monday at Tropicana Field, then took part in a simulated game afterward, facing Brent Honeywell, Gilmartin and Jose Alvarado, who is still working his way back from a shoulder injury.

Here is the Rays' roster for the first-round series:

Pitchers (13): RH Nick Anderson, RH Diego Castillo, RH John Curtiss, RH Oliver Drake, RH Pete Fairbanks, RH Tyler Glasnow, LH Aaron Loup, LH Shane McClanahan, RH Charlie Morton, RH Aaron Slegers, LH Blake Snell, RH Ryan Thompson, LH Ryan Yarbrough

Catchers (2): Michael Perez, Mike Zunino

Infielders (7): Willy Adames, Mike Brosseau, Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe, Nate Lowe, Joey Wendle

Outfielders (6): Randy Arozarena, Kevin Kiermaier, Manuel Margot, Brett Phillips, Hunter Renfroe, Yoshi Tsutsugo

In player pool (11): LH Jose Alvarado-x, INF Vidal Brujan, LH Josh Fleming, INF Wander Franco-y, C Ronaldo Hernandez, RH Brent Honeywell Jr., Austin Meadows-x, Brian O’Grady, RH Trevor Richards, LH Ryan Sherriff, C Kevan Smith.

x-currently on injured list; y-not on 40-man roster

Also notable ahead of today’s game:

The umpiring crew was announced, with Game 1 assignments: home plate, Carlos Torres; first base, Chris Conroy; second base, Lance Barksdale; third base, Larry Vanover (crew chief); leftfield, Paul Nauert; rightfield, David Rackle.