ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays announced their roster for the American League Wild Card Series against the Blue Jays on Tuesday morning, with Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Díaz both active for the best-of-three series.
One roster surprise was that the Rays have Shane McClanahan on the active roster. McClanahan, a Top 100 Prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, is one of the top pitching prospects in the organization. When McClanahan makes his first appearance, he will become the third player in Major League history to make his debut in the postseason, joining A’s infielder Mark Kiger in the 2006 AL Championship Series and Royals infielder Adalberto Mondesi in the 2015 World Series.
But there are two other players who could join McClanahan to expand this exclusive club. Alex Kirilloff, the Twins' No. 2 prospect and the No. 27 prospect in the Majors per MLB Pipeline, was included on Minnesota's roster for the series, while Chas McCormick, the Astros' No. 24 prospect, was included on Houston's roster for its series vs. Minnesota.
“There’s always concern [about a young pitcher making his debut], but we recognize he’s worked really, really hard,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “He’s been on our radar for quite some time.”
The left-handed McClanahan gives the Rays another quality option out of the bullpen. The University of South Florida product impressed during Spring Training and Summer Camp because of his ability to land an upper 90s fastball and a pair of breaking balls. McClanahan, who projects as a starter in the future, was one of the standouts at the alternate training site. In order to make room for McClanahan on the 40-man roster, the Rays designated Sean Gilmartin for assignment.
“His stuff is electric,” Cash said. “The velocity with the fastball. The breaking ball is elite and it’s just a really strong three pitch mix that we feel can help us in a short series that he’s built up to provide multiple innings of work.”
As for Díaz and Choi, the two infielders have been rehabbing from hamstring strains and took live batting practice off Gilmartin, pitching prospect Brent Honeywell and José Alvarado on Monday. The question for the Rays was if Díaz and Choi were healthy enough to play the infield when needed, and they both got the thumbs-up after Monday’s workout.
“Once I took live batting practice and hit off some pitchers, I knew I started feeling good,” Díaz said. “I feel good. I don’t feel anything in my hamstring and up to now, I’ve been feeling good.”
Before the hamstring injury, Díaz had a team-best .428 on-base percentage in 114 at-bats. The last time Díaz made a postseason roster after missing more than a month due to injury was last season in the AL Wild Card Game against the A’s. He took Sean Manaea deep twice, including a leadoff homer.
Neither Díaz or Choi are in the lineup for Game 1, but the Rays have them available off the bench and figure to play a role at some point during the three-game series.
“They made a turn right on the last day of the road trip when we were playing the Mets,” Cash said. “We’re thrilled to have them back.
“There are multiple reasons as to why they’re not in the lineup, but I think the biggest one is that we want to make sure to run them out there for nine innings, they have not done that. I’m confident that they’re timed up at the plate and if we can manage their workload, they’re going to help us win games throughout this postseason.”
Alvarado, who has been on the injured list since Aug. 15 with a back/lat injury, threw multiple live batting-practice and bullpen sessions, but the Rays decided to keep the left-hander off the roster. Ryan Sherriff, Kevan Smith and Josh Fleming were also left off the roster, but that wasn’t much of a surprise.
Fleming went 5-0 in his rookie campaign, but the left-hander threw 90 pitches in Sunday’s regular-season finale, which means he wouldn’t have been available until Thursday. In a three-game series, the Rays elected to go with just four starters, with Ryan Yarbrough capable of providing length, if needed.
Here is the Rays’ full Wild Card Series roster:
Pitchers (13): RHP Nick Anderson, RHP Diego Castillo, RHP John Curtiss, RHP Oliver Drake, RHP Pete Fairbanks, RHP Tyler Glasnow, LHP Aaron Loup, LHP Shane McClanahan, RHP Charlie Morton, RHP Aaron Slegers, LHP Blake Snell, RHP Ryan Thompson, LHP Ryan Yarbrough
Catchers (2): Michael Perez, Mike Zunino
Infielders (7): Willy Adames, Mike Brosseau, Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Díaz, Brandon Lowe, Nate Lowe, Joey Wendle
Outfielders (6): Randy Arozarena, Kevin Kiermaier, Manuel Margot, Brett Phillips, Hunter Renfroe, Yoshi Tsutsugo