When 23 year old pitcher Shane McClanahan took the mound during the 9th inning Monday’s Division Series opener against the New York Yankees, he made Major League history as the first pitcher to make his big league debut in the postseason.
McClanahan was the 31st overall selection in the 2018 draft by the Rays and surged through the system thanks to an electric arm that can tickle triple digits. He finished the 2019 season with Double-A Montgomery and in their most recent update, Baseball America tabbed him as the 5th best prospect in the Rays system and 79th overall.
McClanahan was among the 60 players included in the Rays player pool as they opened Summer Camp in Port Charlotte, but never found his way to the active roster. Part of the reason for that was an injury — hyper extended knee — he suffered while at the Rays alternate training site.
Nonetheless, when it came time for the Rays to finalize their roster for the Wild Card Round, they decided they needed a pitcher of McClanahan’s caliber, thus he was added to the active squad.
McClanahan didn’t make an appearance during the Wild Card Round, but during the first game of the Division Series with the score getting out of hand, Kevin Cash decided it’d be a good time to bring in his rookie flamethrower.
During the top of the 9th inning, the Rays were trailing 9-3 and needed McClanahan to just stop the bleeding. There was a runner on first with one down and longtime nuisance, Brett Gardner at the plate, setting the stage for McClanahan’s debut.
With his first, the southpaw turned, barely paying attention to the man on first, and hurled a 98 mph fastball right down the middle for a called strike — and the runner stole second base on the pitch.
Later on in the at bat, Gardner spiked a ball of off home plate and chopped out towards second base. The ball bounced over McClanahan, and once it reached Brandon Lowe, Gardner was already safe at first.
Then, McClanahan battled with Yankee catcher Kyle Higashioka — who homered previously in the game — for nine pitches before finally yielding walk to him on the 9th pitch. McClanahan’s debut would be over just two pitches later after he was able to induce more soft contact, this time off the bat of DJ LeMahieu. McClanahan fielded the soft chopper himself and threw to first to end the inning and his debut.
Overall, McClanahan threw a total of 15 pitches to three batters, 9 strikes and 6 balls. Of his strikes, there were two hit into play, two called strikes, and five foul balls; McClanahan did not record any whiffs.
The fastest pitch he threw was 99.5 mph; it was the pitch that walked Higashioka. His velocity ranged from 91 to 99, working with a fastball - cutter combination. McClanahan did have an offering at 87.2 mph that has categorized at a cutter by Baseball Savant.
McClanahan joins Dave Eiland as just the second alumnus out of the University of South Florida to make an appearance for the Tampa Bay Rays.