The Rays placed left-hander Shane McClanahan on the 15-day injured list last week due to left forearm tightness. It seems he may be out well beyond those 15 days as manager Kevin Cash tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that surgery is possible and it is “highly unlikely” the southpaw will pitch again this year, though he will see another specialist before that’s confirmed. Cash adds that’s “everything is on the table,” including Tommy John surgery, flexor tendon surgery or the removal of loose bodies, per Topkin.
It’s yet another brutal blow to the Tampa rotation, which has received many this year. The club is already without Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs, each of whom has undergone season-ending surgery already. Josh Fleming is also on the 60-day injured list alongside those two, having been out since late May.
But the loss of McClanahan would be the most devastating of all, given that he’s been one of the best pitchers in the game in recent years. Dating back to his 2021 debut, he’s tossed 404 2/3 innings, allowing just 3.02 earned runs per nine innings. He’s struck out 28% of batters faced, walked just 7.1% and kept the ball on the ground at a 46.8% clip. He finished seventh in American League Rookie of the Year voting two years ago and then was sixth in Cy Young voting last year.
The mounting pitching injuries have undoubtedly played a role in the club’s slide in the standings. They started out the season with a 13-game winning streak and were in first place in the AL East for much of the season, but have since faded to second. Their 68-46 record has them three games behind the Orioles and four games ahead of the Blue Jays. Now they will seemingly have to navigate the final weeks of the season without their best pitcher.
The current rotation consists of Tyler Glasnow, Zach Eflin, Aaron Civale and Zack Littell, which is a talented group but one with concerns. Glasnow has frequently dealt with injuries in his career, having never reached 112 innings in a major league season. He was scratched from his Sunday start due to back spasms and now will be shut down for two days after receiving an injection, per Topkin. Eflin recently had a knee scare that resulted in him avoiding the injured list, but he’s had knee issues his entire career and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see something flare up again. Civale also has a spotty health history, which has prevented him from ever hitting 125 innings in a big league campaign. Littell has primarily been a reliever and has only recently begun stretching out to a starter’s workload.
With the trade deadline now in the rear-view mirror, the Rays will have limited options to supplement this group. Fleming is on a rehab assignment and could come back shortly, though he has a career ERA of 4.86 around multiple IL stints of his own. Prospect Taj Bradley could be recalled from the minors, though his first 16 major league starts resulted in a 5.67 ERA. The Rays could also try to acquire players from outside the organization, though those will naturally be flawed options in one way or another.
The concerns with McClanahan will seemingly extend beyond the current playoff race, given the serious options that are on the table. If Tommy John surgery is ultimately required, that would likely wipe out his entire 2024 season as well, given that recovery usually takes at least 14 months after that procedure. That would be his second such surgery, as he underwent TJS back in 2015, prior to being drafted. The time off after flexor tendon surgery tends to be a little lighter but can still run close to a year.
McClanahan is currently 26 years old and will finish this season with his service time count at two years and 158 days. He’ll be a lock to qualify for arbitration as a Super Two player this winter, the first of four arb seasons before he’s slated for free agency after 2027. It’s possible that he ends up missing the entirety of his age-27 season, though he and the Rays will obviously be hoping that’s not the case.