Rays will lean on youth at SDLA

ST. PETERSBURG – During the final weeks of the regular season, the Rays said they would bet on talent ahead of postseason experience. His rotation for the American League Division Series proves it.

Ahead of Tampa Bay’s practice at Tropicana Field on Tuesday afternoon, manager Kevin Cash revealed that left-handed rookie Shane McClanahan will start Game 1, followed by valued prospect Shane Baz for the second game and “most likely” the right-hander. 25 year old Drew Rasmussen will be in charge of the third commitment.

Not counting the number of times Rasmussen played “Opener,” the trio have combined for 36 starts in the majors. Starting the year, they had none. Most of his experience has come this season, in addition to the 13 games in which Rasmussen came out of the bullpen last year with the Brewers and McClanahan’s four relays in the 2020 playoffs.

McClanahan was Tampa Bay’s most consistent starter this year, posting a 3.43 ERA with 141 strikeouts in 123.1 innings over 25 starts. He took a step forward after Tyler Glasnow was out with injury in mid-June. In his last 17 appearances, McClanahan posted a 3.01 ERA, completing at least five innings 15 times and allowing three or more runs just once.

Baz, 22, has impressed the Rays since he made his debut on Sept. 20. The organization’s top prospect tied the Blue Jays to two runs in five innings and then blanked the Marlins in 5.2 stages six days later. Then he bounced back from a difficult first inning against the Yankees last Saturday.

Rasmussen’s results since joining the rotation speak for themselves. The right-hander, acquired in May on the Willy Adames trade, started at Triple-A Durham, had a pair of bullpen appearances with Tampa Bay and then entered the rotation full-time on Aug. 12.

In eight starts since then, Rasmussen was 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA and tied opponents to averages of .171 / .207 / .256 in 37 innings. He was very efficient, averaging just 13 pitches per inning.

Rasmussen will be available from the bullpen behind McClanahan and Baz in the first two games. If everything goes according to plan, it will be reserved to open Game 3.