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ST. PETERSBURG —– Shane McClanahan was nervous in the hours leading up to his first regular-season appearance for the Rays on Thursday.
“Once you’re on the mound, everything just kind of takes care of itself and you actually get to do what you want to do,” he said. “So there’s no more nerves or anxiety or anything.”
The 24-year-old hard-throwing lefty from USF did some of what he wanted, showing off a 100 mph fastball with movement and a 92-93 mph slider. But he also felt he did some things wrong — most notably allowing a homer to Matt Chapman on a two-out, two-strike changeup he left over the middle of the plate — in his two-run, five-strikeout, four-inning outing.
“There’s a lot to go forward on and make some improvements,” McClanahan said.
Others weren’t nearly as hard on McClanahan, who made four appearances in October as the first pitcher to make his major-league debut in the postseason.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Just really, really impressive to watch from the side.
“The stuff speaks for itself. You watch the radar gun. You watch the breaking ball depth that he creates. He did a really, really nice job.”
Oakland manager Bob Melvin was clearly impressed, offering high praise.
“It feels like (facing Tyler) Glasnow all over again,” Melvin said. “He’s going to be pretty good.”
McClanahan’s 100.5 mph pitch to strike out leadoff man Mark Canha matched the fastest by a lefty starter since pitch-tracking started in 2008, tying Chris Sale and James Paxton. McClanahan got 15 swing-and-misses among his 59 pitches, 10 on the slider.
McClanahan said it was special to have his parents, who live in Cape Coral (where he went to high school) on hand, as well as USF coach Billy Mohl, who hadn’t seen him throw as a pro.
Tsutsugo out — for now
The Rays were without lefty-swinging first baseman/DH Yoshi Tsutsugo, as he was placed on the COVID-19 injured list due to side effects from the vaccine. Cash said Tsutsugo played through some symptoms Wednesday but woke up feeling bad Thursday. They hope to have him back Friday. Reliever Louis Head, sent down after Wednesday’s game, was called back up Thursday, then sent down again after the game.
Cash said Collin McHugh (back) and lefty Cody Reed (thumb) did well facing hitters in Port Charlotte. Cash indicated Reed could be ready to return soon, depending on how he feels Friday. McHugh will throw to hitters again this weekend and could return during next week’s west coast trip. … Having used three relievers Thursday and with Diego Castillo unlikely to be available Friday after working three straight days, the Rays will have Ryan Yarbrough start rather than work behind an opener.
• The Rays have played eight straight games decided by one or two runs (going 3-5), the second-longest streak in franchise history (nine in 2007).
• Tickets for May series against the Yankees (11-13), Mets (14-16), Royals (25-27) and Phillies (29-30) will go on sale Friday at 10 a.m., with capacity staying at around 9,000.
• The Rays host the Astros at Tropicana Field for the first time since the 2019 AL Division Series and since they were disciplined in January 2020 for their 2017 cheating scandal.
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