Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan exited his start against the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night (GameTracker) in the fourth inning following a prolonged visit from manager Kevin Cash and the team trainer. The Rays described McClanahan as dealing with "mid back tightness," according to team broadcaster Tricia Whitaker. It's unclear if the injury will cause him to miss any starts at this point in time.
Rookie right-handed reliever Kevin Kelly replaced McClanahan and recorded the final out of the top of the fourth inning.
McClanahan's final line saw him work 3 ⅔ innings and surrender two runs on four hits and two walks. He struck out three batters on 66 pitches. It's perhaps worth noting that McClanahan's velocity was down relative to his seasonal norms. Whereas his heater had averaged 96.7 mph entering this start, on Thursday it clocked in at 95.1 mph (down 1.6 mph) and topped out at 97.2 mph, according to the data provided by Statcast.
McClanahan, 26, had accumulated a 2.12 ERA (191 ERA+) and a 2.94 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his first 15 starts this season. He had recorded a quality start in each of his last three outings, and had surrendered one run or fewer on nine occasions.
The Rays already experienced one unpleasant development on Thursday. Star shortstop Wander Franco was benched in an effort to make him a better teammate. It's not clear what, precisely, Franco did to trigger the benching. Cash stressed that Franco is a "good kid and good person." With Franco unavailable, the Rays started Taylor Walls and Vidal Bruján up the middle.
The Rays entered Thursday with a 52-25 record, putting them in first place in the American League East. They held a five-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles.