Shields says recovery going according to plan

Angels’ reliever Scot Shields says his recovery from

season-ending knee surgery last June is on track and that Los

Angeles’ bullpen has never been better.

“This one is up there with the best of them since I’ve been

here,” said Shields, the Angels’ longest-tenured player.

He got into eight games with the 2001 Angels and then was 5-3

with a 2.20 ERA in 29 games when Los Angeles won the World Series a

year later.

With John Lackey off to Boston and Chone Figgins gone to

Seattle, Shields is the only player remaining from the championship

team.

He has been a bullpen mainstay as the right-handed setup man,

spanning the tenures of closers Troy Percival, Frankie Rodriguez

and Brian Fuentes.

His career 3.03 ERA and average of 8.2 strikeouts per nine

innings (against 3.4 walks) made him a top setup man. Averaging 66

games per season made him one of the most reliable.

But Shields appeared in a career-low 20 games last season before

opting for left knee surgery in mid-June. He admitted to pitching

in pain while accumulating a career-worst 6.62 ERA over 17 2/3

innings.

This spring, he’s receiving the kid-gloves’ treatment.

“They’re slowing me down compared to everybody else,” he said,

“but that was the game plan from the day I had surgery – don’t be

ready for the first day of spring training, be ready for the

season.

“Everything is going good. It was the plan all along.”

Despite the slow start, Shields has said he’ll be ready for

Opening Day on April 5, when the Angels host the Minnesota

Twins.

And he’s excited to join this season’s bullpen.

“We have quantity and quality and you don’t really see that

often in bullpens,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can do

a lot of different things and do it very well. That’s very

encouraging.”

The Angels let Justin Speier and Darren Oliver go from last

year’s bullpen. They’ve replenished with the additions of former

Detroit closer Fernando Rodney and Brian Stokes from the New York

Mets.

“Every year, we lose one or two guys, but this organization has

done a great job of getting guys in return that can do a very good

job,” Shields said. “Losing Darren Oliver hurt, but you gain

Fernando Rodney, Stokes. And (Jason) Bulger and (Kevin) Jepsen

(both right-handers) with another year under their belts, that’s

going to help out a lot, too.”

Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia says his bullpen will remain one

of the best in baseball, especially with Shields back.

“If those three guys (Shields, Fuentes and Rodney) are fresh

and healthy, we’re going to be able to shorten the game as well as

anybody in baseball,” Scioscia said.

NOTE: Scioscia said Saturday that he plans to again bring in

former Angels this spring to help coach Angels’ players. He

mentioned Tim Salmon, Troy Percival, Mark Langston, Chuck Finley

and Bobby Grich.