Rays win, but may lose Shane McClanahan to injured list due to back issue

Tampa Bay’s top starter has some issues with his pitching, and PitchCom, but his teammates turn on the offense to make up for it.
Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan throws to a Mariners batter during the first inning Friday night in Seattle. The ace lasted only three innings.
Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan throws to a Mariners batter during the first inning Friday night in Seattle. The ace lasted only three innings. [ CAEAN COUTO | AP ]
Published July 1, 2023|Updated July 1, 2023

SEATTLE — That Shane McClanahan worked only three innings and put the Rays in a four-run hole in his return from a bout with back tightness seemed concerning enough Friday.

But after the game, which the Rays rallied impressively to win 15-4 over the Mariners, the Rays said McClanahan’s back problems resurfaced and he may be placed on the 15-day injured list.

“We’ll see,” manager Kevin Cash said. “I don’t know which way we’ll go. Just hope he’s fine. I think it’s stemming from the last back issue that he had.”

McClanahan was clearly frustrated after the game, and he seemed almost resigned to being sidelined for what he hopes will be only a short period to get his back right, with the number of games missed reduced by the upcoming four-day All-Star break. He obviously also would miss out on the chance to pitch in a second straight All-Star Game.

“If I were to go on the IL, I think this would probably the best time for it,” McClanahan said. “I would only have to miss one start and do what I want to do, and that’s come back and be me, not be a shell of myself. I miss that guy out there. I want to get back and do things that I know I can do and not worry about a back (issue) or whatever.”

When McClanahan was lifted after three innings and 66 pitches, the Rays initially said it was not injury related. Cash explained that after head athletic trainer Joe Benge talked with and evaluated McClanahan, they discovered there was “a little bit of an issue” with his back.

And though McClanahan’s velocity was back into its usual high 90s, he acknowledged that at times on the mound he felt something was not right.

“That’s why I’m so frustrated,” he said. “I so want to get this thing right. Obviously, we don’t know what it is — yet, at least. I don’t think anyone’s really overly too concerned. I mean, my arm felt really good. I was throwing 99 miles an hour. So that was good to see. But something is not 100% right. We’re going to do whatever we’ve got to do to get that right.”

Josh Lowe scores against the Mariners during the eighth inning Friday night.
Josh Lowe scores against the Mariners during the eighth inning Friday night. [ CAEAN COUTO | AP ]

The Rays did a pretty good job rallying Friday, winning their third straight and improving their MLB-leading record to 57-28.

With Mariners starter Bryce Miller dealing with a blister on his right middle finger that forced him out of the game in the fourth, the Rays initially had to work hard to get even. They got two runs on a homer by All-Star starting outfielder Randy Arozarena in the fourth. They got one on a Wander Franco triple and Luke Raley single in the fifth. And they got even in the sixth when Josh Lowe, who had a key hit for the third straight game, homered, his first since May 21.

Then they made things look easy, scoring eight in the eighth, starting the rally against reliever Andres Munoz, who hadn’t given up a run in his first 12 appearances, then three more in the ninth.

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By the end of the night, as they scored 15 unanswered runs, every hitter in the starting lineup had at least one RBI.

“That’s a cool day at the office for everybody,” Lowe said.

Or, as Cash said: “A lot of good at-bats.. ... Guys kept getting on base and then coming up with big hits and finding holes. Infield hits. Sac flies. We scored in every way possible.”

They also got a strong team effort from five relievers — Shawn Armstrong, Jake Diekman, Kevin Kelly, Jason Adam and Colin Poche — to produce six scoreless innings.

McClanahan, who was forced out of his June 22 start due to back tightness and given two extra days of rest going into Friday’s game, had a tough night from the start. Most notably, he allowed four runs in an ugly second inning, with repeated failures of the PitchCom device used to signal pitches from catcher Christian Bethancourt. Then the post-game evaluation of additional back issues.

But he said he couldn’t have been more proud of how his Rays mates rallied.

“It’s fantastic,” he said. “Every single one of these guys came in, gave me a hug, (said) ‘We’ve got your back.’ And it’s more appreciated than they will ever know. The clubhouse has each other’s backs. I couldn’t carry my load today, but these guys did a hell of a job and I’m very thankful for that.”

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