Down 5-2 after four innings against the New York Yankees on Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Rays pulled Shane McClanahan from his start with forearm discomfort. This forced the team to place him on the 15-day IL, an occurrence the team is all too familiar with at this point in the season. This isn't McClanahan's first stint on the IL. He landed on the IL right before the All-Star Break with mid-back tightness, sidelining him until after the break.
McClanahan's recent struggles seem to coincide with this back injury. He has struggled in his last six starts, with a 7.36 ERA and failing to make it past the fifth inning in all but one of those starts. His overall ERA jumped an entire run during that stretch, currently sitting at 3.29. Once considered to be near the top of the AL Cy Young race, his stock is starting to slide a little bit
Losing pitchers to injury feels second nature to the team at this point. Despite early-season injuries to Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs that took them out for the season, the starting rotation holds the second-best ERA in the league (3.73), and the bullpen is sitting at a respectable 3.88 ERA, 14th in the league.
Shane McClanahan's injury means the rest of the Rays' rotation needs to carry the load
As well as the team has pitched this season, it will be even more critical now that the team's ace is on the shelf for at least two weeks. The emphasis is going to be on Zach Eflin and Tyler Glasnow primarily. Having just been named the July AL Pitcher of the Month, Glasnow has been lighting it up. He went 3-2 with a 2.11 ERA and 51 strikeouts during his six July starts. Eflin has seen some highs and lows for the last two months, splitting his previous ten decisions, though he pitched very well on Tuesday against the Yankees.
It makes the arrival of trade deadline acquisition Aaron Civale even more fortunate. Coming over from the Cleveland Guardians, Civale is set to make his team debut on Saturday in Detroit, just in time to help fill a hole in the rotation. This will also call for Zack Littell to eat some innings. He's recently joined the rotation after primarily being used as an opener and a reliever, earning a win against Houston on July 30. Littell was also incredibly efficient on Friday night, setting a new career-high in innings with six scoreless frames against the Tigers.
There should be little doubt that the Rays will be able to overcome this as long as the injury doesn't turn out to be more severe. For a team that has worn a little thin on the pitching side, a long-term injury could hamper their chances of winning the World Series, with other teams adding high-end starters at the trade deadline. They still have a little ground to make up in the division as they chase Baltimore.
The Rays' subsequent move was to bring up Curtis Mead, and he came off the bench in the eighth inning on Friday to collect his first big league hit in an 8-0 win over the Tigers. While he likely won't play a ton, seeing him get his first action in the MLB will be fun. The offense is starting to click again, putting up some runs after a slow July. This could help to ease the blow of a significant injury like this. Once McClanahan returns, it'll be time to get serious and make a deep run.