CHICAGO — James Shields has never been driven by statistical superlatives. So after what's been a rocky season, his mission for the stretch run is simple.
“My main focus is to finish strong,” Shields said Friday.
Shields (5-17) is 3-10 since joining the Chicago White Sox and is 0-5 in his last seven outings heading into Saturday's start against the Kansas City Royals. Shields is coming off a tumultuous start Sept. 3 when he allowed five runs in just 2 1/3 innings against Minnesota.
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And after back pain caused manager Robin Ventura to consider putting Shields on the shelf before declaring him healthy enough to make Saturday's start, Shields is again ready to take his turn.
Shields won't put any extra emphasis on the start or try to salvage a season with one start. But Shields acknowledged that he handles adversity differently than he did in the past, which allows him to keep his focus on what's ahead.
“I think when I was younger I was a little more of a hothead and didn't understand how to deal with adversity,” Shields said. “I think I've just dealt with so much adversity in my career, being in the game for as long as I have, I know things are going to be thrown my way. I know what I need to do to deal with it.”
How the Royals deal with Shields remains a question mark simply because of this season's unpredictability. Shields was 14-8 with the Royals in 2014 when he helped Kansas City reach the World Series. That familiarity may have come in handy in the past, but manager Ned Yost admitted Shields' roller coaster season throws a wrench into how the Royals prepare to face him.
Edinson Volquez (10-10) will start for the Royals.
“It's hard, but that's baseball — you just don't know,” Yost said Friday. “You can come out one game and give up 10 runs in two innings and then come out the next game and throw eight innings of shutout baseball. It's hard to tell. We know what type of pitcher James Shields is and what type of competitor he is and that he's going to give you everything he has every time he takes that mound.”
Shields can't explain why he has again struggled the way he did when he first arrived in Chicago. But he hasn't allowed himself to get wrapped up in the criticism that has come his way, but is more concerned with how he pitches from here on out the rest of the season.
“I'm not getting the job done and I'm not doing my job out on the mound,” Shields said. “As a player, it's frustrating — there's no doubt about it. But I know what I'm capable of doing. I know what I've done in my career. But the fans here in Chicago only have one taste of me and that's what I've done this year. Hopefully, I finish strong here and next year will be a different story.”