Rays’ Shane McClanahan working hard toward a simple goal: be the best

NORTH PORT — Shane McClanahan’s performance over the first three months of last season, a 10-3, 1.71 record and an All-Star Game start, established him among the best young starters in the game.

His showing over the second half, including a short injured list stint due to a shoulder issue and a slight dropoff in execution, has driven him to do even better.

That process started about two days after the first-round playoff loss, when McClanahan, 25, embarked on a program he said included significant changes to his workout routine and lifestyle designed to keep him healthier and stronger over what he hopes to be his first complete season.

“I was really, really frustrated with the injury last year and a couple starts,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘I want to be in that position, going into the end of the year, fully healthy, 100 percent, and feeling stronger than I did maybe in April or May.’ I put in the work and hopefully this translates.”

He started stretching more, and working out smarter. He became pickier about what he eats and drinks, and began cooking more, with pasta carbonara tops in his rotation.

“Just trying to put the right things in your body and limit the alcohol and everything like that," McClanahan said.

He is also working on each of the four pitches in his dastardly repertoire, but acknowledges there isn’t much help needed. “Little, little, little, minuscule things that I think can help a pitch play up, per se,” he said.

McClanahan — who worked two innings Wednesday against the Braves — has shown he has the talent. To be considered among the game’s best is to maintain that level of excellence for a longer period of time — over a full 162 games, then over several seasons.

“There’s not a ton of separation — if any — between Shane and some of the game’s elite that have done it for a decade now," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “It’s just finding that consistency that you’re able to repeat, repeat, repeat."

McClanahan is determined to do whatever work he can to get there, to constantly be striving to get better.

“Complacency killed the cat," he said. “If you’re not trying to improve, I think there’s gonna be people passing you. My favorite thing was Clayton Kershaw, won the Cy Young, best pitcher in the world, and the next year, he broke out a brand new slider that ultimately became one of his better pitches.

“I’m just trying to always seek improvement and consistency and just do everything I can to be a better pitcher."

Cash lauded McClanahan’s offseason work and suggested there may have been a residual benefit for McClanahan having been around veteran teammates such as Corey Kluber, Rich Hill and Charlie Morton, as well as a tireless contemporary such as Tyler Glasnow.

“His work ethic really spiked," Cash said. “You always want to see a guy that’s internally motivated. And Shane certainly is."

Pitching coach Kyle Snyder, who works most closely with McClanahan, said the reason for the increased effort is becoming increasingly obvious.

“I’m pretty confident that’s largely becoming why he does what he does — wanting to be the best left-handed starter that there is,” Snyder said.

“Part of my job is to figure out what these guys’ ‘whys’ are. Some of it’s fame, some of it’s money, some of it’s just wanting to compete against the best and be recognized by your peers, as he was to start the All-Star Game last year, etc.

“Sometimes those change a little bit in terms of the actual context of the ‘why.’ But his is becoming pretty clear that he just wants to be better."

No question about it, McClanahan said.

“I felt like I put myself in a position this offseason to come in and make the most out of this year,” he said. “Last year I got a taste to where I wanted to be. And this year, I want to consistently do that and put this team in a spot to win. And I know a lot of other guys feel the same way.”

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