TAMPA, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – It is Opening Day weekend across Major League Baseball. For the defending AL East Champion Tampa Bay Rays, that means a home series against the division opponent Baltimore on Friday.
24-year-old Shane McClanah will get the start for the Rays who went 100-62 during the 2021 season, the first time the team reached 100 wins in franchise history. McClanahan played his college ball at nearby USF, and is no stranger to getting the ball in big games. He went 10-6 on the year with a 3.43 ERA and has six postseason appearances including the World Series in 2020.
Star pitcher Tyler Glasnow is likely out for the season while fellow pitchers Michael Wacha and Collin McHugh along with Nelson Cruz left the team in free agency. Fan Favorites Joey Wendle and Austin Meadows were traded to the Marlins and Padres respectively.
So where does that put the season outlook for Tampa Bay? Most baseball outlets have the Rays in the middle of the AL East standings with the Blue Jays and Yankees as the favorites, both having major offseason additions to bolster their lineups. Despite being one of the best teams in baseball the last several years, the Rays have a tough time getting respect.
Wander Franco signed a massive 11-year, $183 million deal that will keep him with the club through 2033 and an option for an additional year. Having a superstar in Franco coupled with star Randy Arozena, Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe, and a team that can hit and play defense with the best teams in baseball is a positive sign.
The question for the Rays will be their starting pitching depth. Behind McClanahan is new addition Corey Kluber and youngsters Drew Rasmussen, Luis Patino, and Ryan Yarbrough. Behind them is one of a very reliable bullpen with set-up man Pete Fairbanks and closer Andrew Kittredge.
Fans have numerous opportunities to see an exciting brand of Rays baseball in April alone with home series against the Orioles, Athletics, Red Sox, Mariners, and Twins.
Todd Grasley is a sports reporter for Florida National News Tampa. | firstname.lastname@example.org