ST. PETERSBURG — Shane McClanahan did everything he could in spring training, striking out seven of the 10 batters he faced over three one-inning outings.
But it really didn’t matter. His Rays bosses had a plan for the hard-throwing lefty from USF to spend time at the alternate camp, building up to be a starter.
Wednesday, on McClanahan’s 24th birthday, they announced that it was now his turn, that he was being called up to start Thursday’s matinee game against the A’s.
“I view it as an opportunity to go out there and do my job,” McClanahan said. “I’m excited to go out there and pitch. There’s no better feeling than being on that mound. So I’m excited for whatever happens. Whatever they need me to do, I’m ready to do it.”
Manager Kevin Cash said they plan to use McClanahan as a starter — as opposed to an opener — to join a pitching staff impacted by injury, and will give him the opportunity to grow into the role, as he is built up to work around four innings.
“We’re really excited to have him,” Cash said. “We will continue to manage his workload going forward. He’s going to be a big part of what we’re doing this year and for many to come.”
McClanahan’s first regular-season game comes nearly seven months after he made a historic debut for the Rays in the American League Division Series against the Yankees in relief, the first pitcher to debut in the postseason, and also pitched in the World Series.
“I think last year I was more in shock to tell you the truth. You don’t go up there and expect to make your major-league debut in the playoffs,” he said. “This year, it’s more of an excitement that I get to go out there and do my job. So I think that’s where the two are different.”
McClanahan is well equipped, with a 100-mph fastball, curve, change-up and now a slider. He said he took being sent down during spring as a challenge more than a demotion.
“I was never mad,” he said. “I was more excited for the opportunity to prove myself and continue to work on things that I need to work on. So I definitely took it as a learning experience. You’ve got to control what we control and that’s how hard we work every single day.”
Cash said the coaching staff at the Port Charlotte camp was impressed with what they saw from McClanahan, who last pitched Saturday.
“I think he’s done a good job of getting himself built up,” Cash said. “His stuff has been tremendous. ... They have all raved about what we saw in spring training; he has basically maintained that throughout the alt site for this first month.”
McClanahan, a 2018 first-round pick who zoomed through three minor-league levels in 2019, said he was told last Friday the promotion was a possibility but to keep it quiet. So he had been looking forward to coming to the Trop on Wednesday, when he was officially added to the taxi squad, with plans for his parents (who live in Cape Coral), sister and USF coach Billy Mohl to be in the stands Thursday.
Except he couldn’t get there from his Tampa townhouse due to car trouble, so he had to catch a ride with teammate Ryan Yarbrough. “Aside from my car not starting, it’s been a pretty good day,” he said.
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