I can’t think of a team in history that has been more decimated by pitching injuries than the 2023 Tampa Bay Rays. I’m sure teams have dealt with similar issues in the past, but I can’t think of any in a position to be a World Series champion that fell off this quickly. The Rays got off to a historically good start largely because of their starting rotation. Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen, and Jeffrey Springs looked like number-one aces. Now all three of them will miss the remainder of the 2023 season, and in the case of McClanahan, he will be out for all of 2024.
Your heart breaks for Mcclanahan. This is the second season in a row that's been cut short due to injury. The guy's stuff is overwhelming. If we're talking overall arsenal and explosiveness, I think he's the best left-handed pitcher in all of baseball. The problem is that injuries have just gotten in the way, but he has still made it to two consecutive All-Star teams, including starting the game in 2022. He has a fastball that reaches the upper 90s and wipeout off-speed stuff. He has all the makeup of an ace pitcher. He just can't seem to stay healthy.
There is a randomness that comes with pitching injuries. You can care for a player and monitor his innings, but some guys just blow out their arms. I hate that it's essentially a right of passage for pitchers to go through Tommy John at some point in their career. With that said, the evidence is starting to mount that if you play for the Tampa Bay Rays, they'll get the most out of you as a pitcher, but odds are, you'll suffer a devastating injury at some point. In hindsight, Blake Snell may be the luckiest human being alive that he got traded after the 2020 season. He has stayed healthy ever since. The Rays are a phenomenal organization, and they do many things right, but they're bizarrely immune to criticism sometimes. I don't know what needs to be done, but there's no way this many elite pitchers should be consistently suffering such devastating injuries.
So where do the Rays go from here? The outlook is pretty bleak. They will need Tyler Glasnow to reach his full potential for the next three months. If you can give them six or seven innings a start in October, and the bullpen can carry them the rest of the way, then maybe they have a shot, but right now, considering just how many injuries they've had, I can't pick this team to be one that wins a playoff series. And I can't pick them to win the division now. We complained about the Baltimore Orioles' starting rotation, but at least they've been durable. Right now, I'll take that rotation over whatever the Rays throw out there. It's a shitty situation. I wish McClanahan all the best. I hope he can come back to dealing and looking like an All-Star in 2025.