Zack Littell may have to step into a bigger role as the season winds down

Rays pitcher Zack Littell may have to step up to fill a starter role due to uncertainties with Shane McClanahan's injury.
Philadelphia Phillies v Tampa Bay Rays
Philadelphia Phillies v Tampa Bay Rays / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages
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On Saturday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times gave an interesting update on Shane McClanahan's injury that involves forearm tightness.

The news raises many questions as far as the extent of just how severe McClanahan's injury is. So, with seemingly another starter possibly out for a good bit, where does Tampa Bay turn?

The answer may be Zack Littell. The Rays acquired the right-hander off of the waivers from the Boston Red Sox to fill the spot of Garrett Cleavinger who went to the 60-day IL early in the season.

With the Tampa Bay Rays this season, Littell has appeared in 16 games and has started in 5 of them.

This experience in the starting role may be the Rays' idea for a replacement in the starting rotation if McClanahan's injury is severe enough.

Littell has put up good enough numbers to be able to throw him into this role. He has a 3.58 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 32.2 innings of pitching. However, one of the best qualities of his game is how little he walks batters. With Tampa Bay, Littell has faced 138 batters and has walked only 3 of them.

His walk rate is in the 97th percentile of major league baseball. And although his strikeout total may not be mind-blowing, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 9.67. 

His past two starts against the Astros and Tigers have been very good. They are both of his credited wins this year and he gave up two earned runs in 11 combined innings pitched.

During those two wins, he also only walked one batter while facing forty-four people at the plate and had 69% of his pitches thrown be strikes.

Although Littell is mainly a relief arm, his recent success starting on the mound for Tampa Bay is a good cushion for the Rays when it comes to replacing their injury-battered starters. This may happen with impending news coming on McClanahan's injury and Littell may have to be the guy to step up.