The Tampa Bay Rays took to the turf on Sunday, although the real story is about two talented pitching prospects both named Shane: Shane McClanahan and Shane Baz. Both hurlers could help the Rays during the 2020 campaign.
Rays’ players and staff got a firsthand look at both highly touted hurlers on the team’s 60-man player pool and color them impressed.
That’s pretty exciting stuff to watch. Every hitter came out of the box with their eyes open wide, because that’s as good of stuff as you’ll see from 20 or 22-year-old young men.— Kevin Cash
In one inning of work, McClanahan gave up just one hit — to Yandy Díaz — and was able to retire Hunter Renfroe, Michael Brosseau, and Joey Wendle, who went down swinging. McClanahan threw 10 of 15 pitches for strikes (67% strike rate).
Following his outing, Rays manager Kevin Cash called his mid-to-upper 90s four-seam fastball “a big-league weapon,” while his slurve opened some eyes.
Primary catcher Mike Zunino was also very complimentary of McClanahan, saying,
I thought he looked great; I thought he picked up right where he left off. When you’re throwing as hard as he is, throwing strikes is the key. If he continues to do that, he’s going to be a big help for us down the stretch.— Mike Zunino
There is a chance that McClanahan will get an opportunity to pitch this season either as a starter or as a reliever, with Cash noting “his stuff would play in any league and in any inning.”
Meanwhile, Baz was acquired from the Pirates in the trade that sent Chris Archer to Pittsburgh. The Rays didn’t get a good look at him during Spring Training 1.0, due to the fact that he was invited to minor league camp, yet they decided to add Baz to the 60-man player pool in order to continue his development.
Be that as it may, Baz wanted to show that he could make an impactful contribution at the big league should he be called upon.
It was really cool. I think that was a lot of people’s first time seeing me throw. It was kind of cool when I saw people standing behind the L-screen and watching the Trackman. It was really cool to see those hitters. I’ve watched them on TV countless times.— Shane Baz
Baz, who also boasts a power fastball and an assortment of breaking balls, threw strikes, tossing 11 of his 17 pitches in the zone (65% strike rate). The right-hander faced Michael Perez, Renfroe, Brosseau, and Díaz, who struck out looking.
The biggest thing for me is their ability to throw strikes, their understanding of how to make a small adjustment to get them back in the zone if they miss. A lot of times, for younger players, that’s what makes them spiral. These guys are extremely polished.— Kevin Cash
José Alvarado made a much-improved appearance on Sunday, this after throwing just 12 of 20 pitches for strikes (60% strike rate) in his first simulated game/scrimmage appearance of Summer Camp on Friday.
Alvarado started his appearance by coaxing a ground ball out to first base from Daniel Robertson before he struck out Zunino. The left-hander ran into some trouble, walking Nate Lowe and giving up a single to Manuel Margot, yet he bounced back and struck out Brandon Lowe to end the frame.
Cash said Alvarado was better in terms of filling up the strike zone.
Better. His last outing that he had he was fine, but he just wasn’t filling up the strike zone like he’s capable of. We put in an emphasis to fill it up, fill up the zone with the fastball, because as soon as he does that, then those 55-foot breaking balls [come] — which catchers can’t stand but hitters swing at. So you don’t tell him not to throw those.— Kevin Cash
According to Juan Toribio (MLB.com), Alvarado told Cash afterward that he felt like he noticed some things with his mechanics that could help him control the strike zone even better moving forward.
Encouraged with his work. (Pitching coach Kyle Snyder and I) were talking about his bullpen sessions and flat grounds and what they’ve been like, and Kyle is very encouraged where he is from a strike-throwing ability. That’s what kind of got lost at the end of last year. I know he dealt with the injury, but injury aside, it was the command that kind of got away. That’s what we’re all focusing on.— Kevin Cash
Colin Poche also put together a nice bounce-back performance, tossing a scoreless frame on 13 pitches (10 strikes, 77% strike rate). Poche got Brosseau and Wendle to fly out for the first two outs of the inning before getting Perez to strike out swinging.
All of the hurlers who threw on Sunday limited Rays hitters to just two hits across 3-1/2 innings.
The team continues to be without several players on the main field: Randy Arozarena, Yonny Chirinos, Tyler Glasnow, and Austin Meadows still have not been at a Summer Camp workout at the Trop. Austin Meadows has been M.I.A. since July 3, while Brendan McKay has been absent since Monday, and Diego Castillo since Tuesday.
The team has not commented on why players were absent, or even if they were working out of sight. Teams have been told not to comment on COVID-19 related issues due to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) concerns unless a player gives explicit permission.
The New What Next
Weather permitting, the team will play four innings at Tropicana Field today, followed by four off-site at an unspecified location. As he has been wont to do since day one, Cash has not detailed which pitchers will throw.