Shields Shining Bright Once Again
Tampa Bay Rays starter James Shields
doesn’t fit the usual mold of your commonplace long-in the tooth
veteran pitchers. At 29 most Major League Baseball pitchers are just
starting to hit their stride and producing exclusively near the top
of the rotation.
Coming into Spring Training this season
after a curious 13-15 record with a career high 34 Home Runs allowed,
Shields was one of the huge question marks surrounding this Rays
squad. Even during the Spring where Shields started only 4 games and
posted a 1.88 record, the question mark lost a lot of it emphasis,
but I was still anxious.
After Tuesday night, I am removing the
question mark and hoping that Shields had definitely found his
stride, re-configured his grip on the ball and going to again be
concrete this Rays team will need to succeed this season.
Amazingly Shields passed the 1,000
inning mark for his career during the second inning of his Tuesday
night start. He is the first Rays pitcher to ever hit that exclusive
mark. It was the way Shields just seemed in control on Tuesday night
that got me to find my eraser and take that over-sized question mark
off his name and instead add a few stars.
His 9 strikeouts during his 4-hit
complete game victory over the Chicago White Sox was impressive, but
lost in the haze of all the guts and glory of the win was the fact
Shields final strikeout of CWS slugger Paul Konerko to end the game
gave him 461 for his career when starting at Tropicana Field. That
was 1 K better than former K-master Scott Kazmir for the Rays career
Trop. strikeout record.
Sure Shields had a minor blip on
Tuesday night by giving Carlos Quentin a lead-off double to
leftfield, then A J Pierzynski singled Quentin in for the only
blemish on Shields night, but Shield seemed to have found his
change-up magic and has his breaking ball dancing like the hula girl
on my car dash.
Some days it really doesn’t feel like
Shields has been on this staff for 6 MLB seasons, and he is only one
day shy of having the most MLB service time on the Rays. Rays OF B J
Upton has him beat by one 24-hour day with 4 years 131 days.
I truly thought after Shields lost his
bid for a 4th straight Opening Day start to fellow
staffer David Price he might fade into the fabric a bit, especially
after getting roughed up in his initial 2011 start. Interesting
enough, Shields got the start in the Rays first victory of the season
on April 8th, but was issued a no-decision.
Shields is now sports a 1-1 record, in
4 starts with 2 no-decisions. With his complete game on Tuesday
night Shields has now thrown at least 6 innings in all 4 of his
starts this season and is second on the Rays strikeout list with 20
Even with Shields new found control, he
is ranked in the Top 10 of the American League with 42 total bases
and 10 extra base hits allowed. But Shields is showing progress. Hr
even admitted during a post-game interview last night that he was
toying with his pitching grips while on the rubber, and the ball
seemed to move a little bit more for him last night.
Great to see the Shields starting to
again provide that added boost to again regain his long time moniker
of “Big Game James”. If Shields continues to adjust on the mound,
provide a vocal leadership role in the clubhouse and stays
focused……anything is possibly for the Rays “graybeard” in
2011. And that is what veteran leadership is suppose to do, lead by