McClanahan, 9 prospects cut from TB camp

March 16th, 2021

After striking out the side in his second straight appearance on Monday, Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan said to not be fooled by his one-inning outings this spring. His role was clear in his mind, and that belief was further strengthened by what he heard from general manager Erik Neander, manager Kevin Cash and pitching coach Kyle Snyder.

“I’m a starter,” McClanahan said. “[I'm] just going to trust them, and they’re going to do what’s right for me. Whether that’s taking it slow or whatever, I’ve got to do what they tell me to do.”

For now, that likely means beginning the season at the Rays’ alternate training site. McClanahan was one of 10 intriguing young players reassigned to Tampa Bay’s Minor League camp on Tuesday morning as the club reduced its Spring Training roster to 53 players.

The Rays optioned McClanahan, infielder/outfielder Vidal Bruján, right-hander Brent Honeywell Jr., outfielder Josh Lowe, two-way player Brendan McKay, infielder Kevin Padlo, righty Luis Patiño, righty Drew Strotman and infielder Taylor Walls -- all of whom are on their 40-man roster. They also reassigned righty Joe Ryan to Minor League camp. These players will join the group of 10, headlined by Wander Franco, who were cut from the Major League camp roster on Monday.

Patiño (No. 19), Bruján (No. 50), McKay (No. 72) and McClanahan (No. 84) all rank among MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects. Honeywell (No. 9), Ryan (No. 11), Lowe (No. 12), Walls (No. 18), Padlo (No. 19) and Strotman (No. 27) are also among the club’s top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.

“They're all close,” Cash said. “Sometimes they're at the mercy of us having what we would consider a good club [that] went really deep into the postseason, and there's not always space for everybody. But saying that, that doesn't make the conversations any easier. … We feel that they're ready to help.”

McClanahan certainly looked ready this spring. After making his debut in the postseason last year, he allowed only one hit and struck out the final seven batters he faced -- the last six of them swinging -- over three dominant appearances. The lefty overpowered opponents with a four-pitch mix, led by his triple-digit fastball.

“Couldn't have done anything better. He was outstanding,” Cash said. “The guy wants to be in the big leagues, and none of us are going to sit here and blame him or fault him for that. Really, really impressed with what Mac took from the alternate site and then being part of the postseason and put to work this offseason. You guys see it. We all see it. He's got a chance to be really special.”

There were two reasons for the flurry of moves. The first was procedural, the same reason many teams made roster cuts on Tuesday. If a player on the 40-man roster without a prior year of service is injured beyond this point, he would have to be placed on the Major League injured list, thus accruing service time and pay.

The second is more practical. With Opening Day less than three weeks away, the Rays are trying to whittle down their roster closer to what it will look like at Marlins Park on April 1.

“We’re in the process of getting the group together,” Cash said before the moves were announced.

And on that front, he added, the Rays still “definitely have decisions left to make.” Their position player group seems mostly set, with the one question being the availability of Ji-Man Choi as he recovers from right knee inflammation. If everyone’s healthy, Tampa Bay’s rotation will consist of Tyler Glasnow, Ryan Yarbrough, Michael Wacha, Rich Hill and Chris Archer. But it remains to be seen how the club will fill out the bullpen and whether it will choose to carry 13 or 14 pitchers on the 26-man roster.

One thing is clear, though: At some point, the Rays will call upon the 10 players they sent out on Tuesday. Some of them will play a significant role, but not right out of the gate.

“We're going to need them, because they're good,” Cash said. “They're going to help us win games, and that's the most important thing, that we recognize just how talented they are. Just because you're not needed Opening Day doesn't mean that you're not going to play huge roles throughout the course of the season.”

Patiño, McClanahan and Ryan are among the Rays’ top rotation depth options. Honeywell will join that group as soon as he’s built up to handle that workload. McKay will be back in the mix at some point this season, and he’ll keep working as a hitter while continuing his rehab from left shoulder surgery. Strotman was a standout in the club’s fall instructional league camp and may not be far behind.

Bruján, Lowe, Walls and Padlo could be among the Rays’ first callups if they need reinforcements. Bruján worked this spring in the infield and outfield, making the speedster a versatile option. Walls is arguably the best defensive player in Tampa Bay’s farm system. Lowe could fill a need in the outfield at some point, and Padlo has shown power at the plate and solid defense at both infield corners.