ST. PETERSBURG — Shane McClanahan prefers to do his winning on the mound and give credit to his Rays teammates afterward.
Presented with the news that he was voted the Don Zimmer Most Valuable Player by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, McClanahan was knocked a little off his game.
“I’m not the guy usually to win awards, so it’s a different situation for me,” McClanahan said Saturday. “I love talking about my teammates. I think whenever the limelight or spotlight might be on me, I think I really appreciate how much these guys have done for me this year and how I wouldn’t be here without them.”
He was, however, honored to be chosen for one of the three annual awards. Jose Siri was voted the Outstanding Rookie, and Yandy Diaz received the Paul C. Smith Champion Award.
“There’s so many deserving guys in here that I feel like have contributed just as much or more than me,” McClanahan said. “To be selected by the writers is something really, really special for me.
“Obviously I’m always the guy to say someone else deserves it and everything like that. But I’m very honored that the writers chose me.”
McClanahan certainly was deserving, going into Sunday’s start against Toronto 12-6 with a 2.36 ERA that is third best in the American League and a 31.7 percent strikeout rate that is second.
With injuries depleting the Rays’ rotation at the start of the season, he stepped up as the ace of the staff and one of the league’s best. His streak of 13 consecutive starts allowing two or fewer runs, striking out six or more and working at least six innings was the second best in modern baseball history.
Though not as dominant in the second half, missing two-plus weeks with a shoulder issue and leaving his last start due to a neck spasm, his body of work in his first full big-league season is impressive.
“I agree with the decision,” manager Kevin Cash said. “I think it’s a fairly easy choice. We’ve had some really strong offensive performances with Yandy and Randy (Arozarena) and other guys, but I think Shane really stood out. ... We leaned on him last year when (Tyler) Glasnow went down, and then weren’t expecting him to take it to another level. He was good enough as is. He certainly took it to another level.”
Siri, an Aug. 1 trade acquisition from Houston, has quickly demonstrated that he can impact games with his assortment of high-end tools on the bases, in centerfield and at the plate.
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“It’s been a short period of time, but quite the impact,” Cash said. “Game-saving, game-changing, game-altering plays out in centerfield. I think he’s come a long way with the bat. I’m excited to see more of Jose certainly the rest of this season and next year.”
Diaz emerged this season as something of a team leader and spokesman, one of several factors that can be considered for an award that goes to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.
“I feel good about it,” Diaz said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “I’ve never thought I was one to want to do a lot of interviews or be in front of the camera. But I do feel happy after I do these interviews.”
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