McClanahan has to prove he’s old enough

by Gary Shelton on October 7, 2021

in general

McClanahan has to defy his youth tonight.

Thursday, 4 a.m.

In the last 17 years, the Boston Red Sox have killed a curse.

They've won four World Series, and they've had great players such as Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Curt Schilling. They've invested millions in the prospect of getting runners home, and once again, they have become a great franchise.

Shane McClanahan? He just got here.

McClanahan, 24, will start in tonight's ALDS opener for the Rays, a rather daunting task when you remember he wasn't even with the Rays when the season started. He was at the team's alternate site, waiting for his chance. Now, he has it.

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So what makes you think the Rays can beat a grizzled Boston team that spent 85 days in first place this season?

"The best that we can go back on are a couple of his high intensity starts this year," said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. "We threw him into the fire last year in the postseason when he had never pitched a regular season game. At the time it didn't feel that great, but maybe that's helping him now, and then Sunday night baseball here against the Red Sox, he performed very, very well, and then watching him navigate through his outings -- certainly specific ones where there was some adversity seeing him get through the inning and bounce back and kind of hit the reset button and find ways to get deep in ballgames.

"I mean, it felt like Shane always had pitches left that he could have gone for an extra inning. By design we chose not to do that, but his pitch efficiency was really good. I think over his 25 starts, whatever it is, he continues to learn things about himself and learn about the situation that's presented to him."

Still if there is a time for wiles and craft, it is the post-season.

Of course, by comparison, McClanahan is an old vet. No. 2 starter Shane Baz started the season in AA. No. 3 starter Drew Rasmussen was in the Brewers' bullpen.

"I think in big situations, you know, it goes back to whether or not you're prepared for it," McClanahan said. "Have you put in the effort? Have you put in the work? I feel like there's a sense of calmness when you know you've done all you can to prepare for that situation. I find a little bit of comfort and relaxation knowing that I'm prepared for this moment."

The Rays have always seen big-moment capably in McClanahan. Perhaps that's the reason he made his debut in last season's playoffs. Perhaps it is the reason he will go first this season.

 "Last year there was so much uncertainty in the entire world," McClanahan said. "Not just in baseball. To have that opportunity last year to be a part of the team and when honestly, that many had doubts that we wouldn't play the season, and to be part of that was special and to be here now as a starter and, you know, to have been a part of this team from the very beginning essentially, you know, it means a lot. It's exciting."

As young as he is, McClanahan has pitched enough to respect the Sox. He has three starts against Boston since Aug. 1.

"I've learned they're a very good team," he said. "Obviously, they're in the situation that they're in because they're a good team. They're a selective team, but they're aggressive when they need to be. You know, you definitely learn a lot about a team when you face them. At the end of the day they learn more about you."

True. But the world will pay closer attention to McClanahan tonight.

"I'm very confident in them," outfielder Kevin Kiermaier said. "These guys have electric arms. They might be classified as rookies, but it seems like they've been around longer, even a guy like Baz who doesn't even have two weeks in the Big Leagues. Guys like McClanahan, these guys are throwing 100 miles an hour any given pitch with nasty breaking stuff, and they've had hitters off balance. Shane throughout the course of the season, Baz these last two weeks looks dominant as can be, and, you know, they deserve to be in there."

The Rays will play the Red Sox at 8:07 p.m.

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