Shane McClanahan Scratched From Start With Shoulder Impingement

Rays ace Shane McClanahan was scratched from tonight’s start against the Marlins shortly before game-time. The star southpaw felt discomfort while warming up in the bullpen and was visibly upset (video link provided by Rob Friedman). The club later announced his preliminary diagnosis as a shoulder impingement (h/t to Tricia Whitaker of Bally Sports Florida). He’s set to undergo additional imaging tomorrow, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The team will provide more information in the coming days, but it’s obviously a worrisome development. Shoulder issues are a concern for any pitcher, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if McClanahan winds up on the 15-day injured list. Even a brief absence would be a notable blow for a Tampa Bay club that currently occupies the top Wild Card spot in the American League. The Rays are just a half-game up on the Mariners and a game clear of the Blue Jays, with a three-game gap between themselves and the nearest current non-playoff team (the Orioles).

Their place in the standings makes the final five weeks crucial as the Rays look to lock down a fourth straight playoff appearance. One could argue there’s no player more pivotal to those efforts than McClanahan, the American League’s All-Star Game starter and one of the top pitchers in the sport. After a productive rookie season in which he posted a 3.43 ERA through his first 25 big league starts, McClanahan has placed himself among the game’s elite arms this year. He’s worked to a sparkling 2.20 ERA across 24 outings and 147 1/3 frames. The former first-rounder has struck out an elite 32.5% of batters faced and induced ground-balls at a huge 52.3% clip while only walking 5.4% of opponents.

McClanahan has made a strong case for AL Cy Young award consideration, jointing the likes of Justin Verlander (who landed on the IL this afternoon), Dylan Cease and Framber Valdez among the Junior Circuit’s top starters. If healthy, McClanahan would be skipper Kevin Cash’s obvious choice for Game 1 of a possible playoff series.

The Rays have dealt with myriad pitching injuries this season. The bulk of those have come in the bullpen, but they’ve been without Tyler Glasnow all season as he rehabs from last year’s Tommy John procedure and have lost high-end prospect Shane Baz for two extended stretches. It’s possible both Glasnow and Baz could factor into the mix down the stretch, giving Tampa Bay a potentially enviable stockpile of arms if they’re at full strength.

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