ST. PETERSBURG — As a pubescent, Shane McClanahan’s adoration of Cal Ripken Jr. was as profound as the life-size poster of the Hall of Famer that covered one of his bedroom walls.
“Ultimately,” said McClanahan, who was born in Baltimore and lived there until age 5, “Cal is the reason I love this game.”
Hence the reason Tuesday night’s start — McClanahan’s first against his boyhood team — holds a bit extra meaning for the rookie left-hander, who would have been anxious to return regardless following a 10-day layoff due primarily to the all-star break.
“Being from Baltimore, it’s cool to pitch against your hometown team, the team you watched growing up,” said McClanahan, whose family lived in a row house roughly 13 minutes from Camden Yards. “It’s exciting, but ultimately nothing’s changed; I’m just going to go out there and do my job.”
Before the extended layoff, McClanahan appeared to have settled into a mild groove, posting a 3.42 ERA in his last five starts after compiling a 4.54 ERA through his first eight. He labored in his last start July 9 against the Blue Jays, allowing only a run in a four-inning no-decision that included a 31-pitch third.
“I felt like I ended the (half) on a strong note,” said McClanahan, who wore No. 8 (Ripken’s number) during his two seasons at USF. “Body felt good, arm felt good, no issues so far. The extra rest, obviously I’m going to feel really good.”
Rays sign No. 34 overall pick
Prep infielder Cooper Kinney became the first Rays draft choice to formally join the organization Monday, signing for his slotted value (slightly more than $2.1 million) and appearing at Tropicana Field.
“It’s been nothing but just exciting,” said Kinney, chosen with the 34th overall pick in the competitive balance round. “I’m really proud to be here and super excited, really glad that the Rays took a chance on me.”
Kinney, who reports to the club’s minor-league headquarters in Port Charlotte next week, led The Baylor School of Chattanooga (Tenn.) to Division II-AA state titles in each of his three full prep seasons. A left-handed batter, he committed to the University of South Carolina and was ranked 84th on mlb.com’s list of the top prospects from the 2021 draft class.
Thinking less, thriving more
During his mid-June funk, lowlighted by two walk-off losses, reliever Pete Fairbanks said he felt he was becoming a bit too stagnant — and perhaps too cerebral — on the mound.
So the 27-year-old right-hander made one significant adjustment: He supplanted thinking with throwing. Plain ol’ throwing.
The result: In his last six appearances, Fairbanks has totaled 6⅓ scoreless innings, allowing one hit, walking none and striking out eight in that span.
“I was just trying to be more rhythmic,” said Fairbanks, whose ERA has dropped from 4.09 to 3.18 since the start of July.
“I felt like I was getting kind of stagnant, kind of robotic for a little bit ... so I’m just trying to get back to being an athlete and throwing like I’m more of an infielder than I am a pitcher.”
Manager Kevin Cash and pitching coach Kyle Snyder aren’t suppressing their excitement over the continued progress of right-handed starter Tyler Glasnow, who continues playing catch at distances of 75 to 90 feet. Glasnow was placed on the 60-day injured list with a right elbow sprain June 15.
“He’s in a really good spot; Kyle came into the office pretty excited,” Cash said prior to Monday’s game. “I know it’s 75-90 feet, but it’s still Glasnow and there’s reason to be excited behind it.”
Elsewhere, outfielder Manuel Margot (hamstring) continues progressing, with Cash hinting at his return before the Rays face the Yankees and Red Sox in back-to-back series starting July 27. Less encouraging is the status of right-hander Ryan Thompson (shoulder), who continues feeling a degree of discomfort and may require more medical consultation.
Thompson was placed on the 10-day injured list June 30. “He got up off the mound today and he’s like, ‘I just feel it every time I throw the ball,’” Cash said. “Not ideal, but those things can take a turn for the better just as quickly as they can for the worse.”
Odds and ends
The Rays’ loss Monday was their first in seven games against Baltimore this season. ... The Rays have lost consecutive games for the first time since May 11-12. On the uplifting side, their bullpen hasn’t allowed a run at home since the sixth inning on July 5 against Cleveland, a span of 25⅓ innings. ... Orioles cancer conqueror Trey Mancini, who went 2-for-4 Monday, is batting .375 (9-for-24) with four home runs against the Rays this season.
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