Shane McClanahan Becomes First Pitcher To Make MLB Debut In Postseason
SAN DIEGO—On an otherwise forgettable night for the Rays, they did get one positive, promising glimpse of their future.
Lefthander Shane McClanahan became the first pitcher in MLB history to make his debut in a postseason game Monday night. The Rays summoned McClanahan, the No. 79 prospect on the BA Top 100, with two outs in the top of the ninth inning of their 9-3 loss to the Yankees in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
McClanahan, 23, entered with a runner on first and allowed an infield single and walked a batter, but he retired D.J. LeMahieu on a chopper back to the pitcher to escape the inning with the bases loaded. He threw 13 four-seam fastballs, averaging 98 mph, and a pair of two-seamers that averaged 89 mph.
“Lot of power. Got a lot to like,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I don’t know if it’s the ideal scenario to have your debut come in Game 1 of a DS, but I was encouraged. Certainly the stuff speaks for itself.”
The first position player to make his debut in a postseason game was infielder Mark Kiger with the Athletics in 2006. He was followed by shortstop Adalberto Mondesi with the Royals in 2015 and Twins outfielder Alex Kirilloff this season.
But no pitcher before McClanahan had seen his first MLB action in the postseason, and his trailblazing debut came amidst unfavorable circumstances.
Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier and Kyle Higashioka homered in the first five innings to give the Yankees an early edge and Giancarlo Stanton blew the game open with a grand slam in the ninth. By the time McClanahan entered, the Yankees had already sent eight men to the plate in the inning and turned a close game into a rout.
The Rays drafted McClanahan 31st overall in 2018 out of South Florida on the strength of his left arm, and he wasted no time showing it. He threw the first pitch of his career—a 98 mph fastball—for a strike to get ahead of Brett Gardner. Three pitches later, all at 98 mph or above, he induced an infield chopper, but Gardner beat it out after McClanahan and second baseman Brandon Lowe collided trying to field the ball.
McClanahan responded with what Cash highlighted as the lefty’s most impressive moment of the night. McClanahan fell behind Higashioka 3-0 but battled back to get it to a full count. He continued pounding the strike zone and Higashioka kept fouling him off. The end result was a nine-pitch at-bat, which Higashioka eventually won when McClanahan missed outside with a 99.5 mph fastball, his fastest pitch of the day.
Even though McClanahan lost the battle, the way he fought back made an impression on his manager.
“Falls behind 3-0 to their catcher, I thought that was pretty big,” Cash said. “He was able to kind of control the moment there.”
With the bases loaded, McClanahan quickly got ahead of LeMahieu with a first-pitch fastball for a strike and induced another weak chopper on the second pitch, this time fielding it cleanly and throwing a strike to first base to escape the jam.
Overall McClanahan threw 9 of 15 pitches for strikes. The performance—two weak choppers and battling back in a nine-pitch at-bat—was enough to solidify his place as part of the Rays’ postseason bullpen plans.
“We put guys on the roster, we’re going to use them.,” Cash said. “We foresee using them at any situation.”