PORT CHARLOTTE — Shane McClanahan wasn’t sure what Rays manager Kevin Cash meant when he came to pull him out of Saturday’s exhibition with two outs in the fourth.
“I gave the ball to Cash and he was like, ‘Go back.’ I go, ‘Okay.’ And I was like, ‘Wait, what?’ ” relayed McClanahan. “I come back in the dugout, and they say, ‘Hey, you’re going out for one more hitter.’ I said, ‘Okay, I have it now.’
The idea was to let McClanahan get a fifth ‘up’ by starting another run, it was all part of the plan to have him build as much as possible for his opening day start on Friday, and taking advantage of the re-entry rule of spring training for pitchers.
He threw 58 pitches in his first stint and five in his second, and felt good about opening the season.
“I think I’m in a good position,” he said. “I’ve put in the work in this camp and in the offseason, and we’re going into Friday in a good position.”
McClanahan had an interesting outing overall, allowing singles to the first three Twins and then, as Cash put it, “died it up”, increasing his fastball speed a few miles per hour to 98 -99, knocking out sluggers Miguel Sano and Gary Sanchez, and knocking out Alex Kirilloff on a soft liner.
“I feel like I have the same gear every time I take the mound, but I just started running throws,” McClanahan said. “I think that was it; I started throwing the first strike and making quality pitches and not leaving it in the center of the plate.
Overall, McClanahan allowed six hits and struck out six. He went the first time without scoring, although two runners who isolated him scored when minor leaguer Trevor Brigden allowed a three-run homer.
A notable change was the improvement to his curve ball.
“(Pitching coach) Kyle Snyder helped me a lot with that pitch, gave me a lot of clues while I was throwing it and everything like that,” McClanahan said. “So, I become more comfortable with it. And I owe him a lot of success.
Game recap: Twins 8, Rays 2
Two of the five relievers competing for the final three spots in the bullpen worked. Chris Mazza allowed two hits and four runs on a 1 2/3 inning error, Colin Poche walked one and had two outs. … The Rays fell to 5-8-2 with four spring games remaining. … Third baseman Yandy Diaz continued his strong defensive spring with a great play near the shortstop spot in one shift. “Yandy made some really good plays,” Cash said. “Just showing a lot of athleticism.”
Right-hander Luke Bard, who looked sharp after returning from hip surgery, was reassigned to minor league camp. That cuts the active roster to 31, with two pitchers, Shane Baz and Pete Fairbanks, headed to the injured roster, and three more cuts to reach the 28-player limit for Opening Day. … After impressing in a few practices, newly acquired outfield/DH Harold Ramirez will start at first base on Sunday. He could provide the Rays with another lineup option over left-handed pitchers. … Receiver Mike Zunino was the DH for a second straight game after being out for a few days with shoulder inflammation, homerun in the sixth. Throwing is the biggest problem, so Zunino is slated for DH again on Sunday and maybe back behind the plate on Monday. … Triple-A Durham broke camp on Saturday, with a season opener Tuesday in Nashville.
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