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Rays ace Shane McClanahan ‘highly unlikely’ to pitch again in 2023

The left-hander is facing possible season-ending surgery due to the forearm tightness that landed him on the injured list last week.
 
Rays pitcher Shane McClanahan, who is facing possible season-ending surgery, receives a high-five from catcher Christian Bethancourt in the dugout during Tuesday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Tropicana Field.
Rays pitcher Shane McClanahan, who is facing possible season-ending surgery, receives a high-five from catcher Christian Bethancourt in the dugout during Tuesday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Tropicana Field. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Aug. 8, 2023|Updated Aug. 9, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG — It is “highly unlikely” that Shane McClanahan will pitch again this season, Rays manager Kevin Cash acknowledged Tuesday. The ace left-hander is facing the possibility of surgery, Cash said, for the forearm tightness that put him on the injured list last week.

McClanahan was sent back to Florida Thursday, met with the team doctor and then was placed on the IL. On Sunday, he flew to California to meet Monday with specialist Dr. Neal ElAttrache. McClanahan has one more meeting scheduled for this coming Monday with Texas-based specialist Dr. Keith Meister, who has consulted on several Rays’ elbow injuries.

Asked Tuesday about the chances of McClanahan pitching again in 2023, Cash said, “Highly unlikely. But again, I mean, I’m speaking out of turn until Dr. Meister weighs in and then Shane makes a decision.”

As far as what McClanahan could be facing, “Surgery is certainly an option,” Cash said. “But again, I don’t want to get too far ahead. But I think in fairness to Mac and to us, he’s gonna be down for a little while.”

Cash said it was not entirely clear what surgery McClanahan might need. He said there is the possibility of Tommy John, flexor tendon surgery, or a simple loose body removal.

Still, any procedure, combined with rehab, would leave little time for McClanahan to return this season. He previously underwent Tommy John surgery as a freshman at USF in 2016.

Rays athletic trainer Joseph Benge, left, speaks with pitcher Shane McClanahan in the dugout during Tuesday's game against the Cardinals at Tropicana Field.
Rays athletic trainer Joseph Benge, left, speaks with pitcher Shane McClanahan in the dugout during Tuesday's game against the Cardinals at Tropicana Field. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

McClanahan was 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in six starts since his last win on June 16, leaving starts on June 22 and June 30 due to mid-back tightness that eventually forced him onto the 15-day IL on July 1. He returned July 17 and went six innings against the Rangers but lasted just four, five and four innings in his next three starts, respectively.

The loss of McClanahan would be a huge blow to the Rays, who already have been hit hard by pitching injuries this season.

Tampa Bay began the season without Shane Baz, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Drew Rasmussen, Jeffrey Springs and Josh Fleming then went down during the season. Rasmussen and Springs underwent elbow surgeries and are out for the year. Fleming is making rehab appearances and could return soon.

The Rays also are holding their breath on Tyler Glasnow, who was scratched before his last scheduled start on Sunday with back spasms.

“He had an injection (Tuesday) morning. We’re optimistic that he’ll respond,” Cash said. “Over the next two days, let’s see how he responds and then we’ll look to insert him back into the rotation. I think we’re aiming for the series against the Guardians. And we’ll go from there. Two days of kind of shut down.”

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The Rays have Glasnow penciled in for Saturday against Cleveland but are waiting to see how he feels before fully committing.

Cash said the team will be cautious, given Glasnow’s large frame.

“We’re also talking about a highly athletic person, 6-foot-8. There’s a lot of moving parts in there,” Cash said. “The good thing is ‘Glas’ described that he has had this before, to where it hurt and bothered him a lot more than this go around. So, that’s good.”

Shane McClanahan looks on from the dugout during Tuesday's game against the Cardinals at Tropicana Field.
Shane McClanahan looks on from the dugout during Tuesday's game against the Cardinals at Tropicana Field. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

The Rays still have Zach Eflin and Zack Littell, along with Aaron Civale (acquired from the Guardians at the trade deadline), in their rotation. For now, the plan to have a bullpen day and use Littell against the Cardinals. Fleming is on a rehab assignment, and Cash said the left-hander could possibly return to the rotation.

They team also has Taj Bradley — who made 16 starts in the big leagues this season posting a 5.67 ERA — available at Triple-A Durham.

“With the off days, I think that we can kind of roll through a four-man rotation,” Cash said. “The way we’re presented, yes, there will be some times that we’ll need to insert (a fifth starter), and whether that’s a bullpen day or call up somebody to help us, we’ll do that.

“But we’re going to try to put our heads together over this homestand to figure out the best way to navigate through.”

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