GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) No one in Chicago White Sox camp is happier for a new season than James Shields.
The right-hander, brought in to bolster a pitching staff on a team expected to contend last season, saw his fortunes fall with the team’s place in the standings.
Now, with a team rebuilding, he’s in a more familiar role as mentor.
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”You’re always learning, no matter how many years you’ve been in the game,” Shields said Wednesday. ”This is a game of adjustments.”
Shields was 6-19 with a 5.85 ERA last year with San Diego and Chicago, including 4-12 with a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts for the White Sox.
”He just has to continue to get out there and be himself, command the zone, locate,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. ”He’s very confident. I don’t think he’s going to put a lot of pressure on himself. He wants to go out there and I believe he wants to have fun and have a bounce-back year.”
Durability has never been an issue with Shields. The 35-year-old has had 33 or more starts every season since 2008.
”I feel like I work hard in the offseason every single year. You’ve got to have a good routine between starts and you’ve got to have a good training staff as well.”
Pitching coach Don Cooper is also supportive.
”One of things I love about Coop, he’s got your back at all times, no matter how you do out there,” Shields said. ”He just loves to work. He’s there, he’s working on things all the time, he’s constantly thinking about stuff. Trying to refine your game every single outing.”
Shields played two seasons in Kansas City, when the Royals went from a 90-loss team the year before his arrival to a World Series in Shields’ second season, 2014. He pitched well with Kansas City and helped teach a young staff, which went on to win the Series in 2015 after Shields had signed with the Padres.
”I’ve been around the game a long time,” he said. ”I’m here to help the younger guys any way I possibly can and try to create a culture wherever I go.”
Aaron Rowand, Shields’ first cousin, is a former White Sox outfielder and now serves as the team’s outfield and baserunning instructor. Rowand is four years older than Shields. He was the Sox center fielder when he worked with Shields when the pitcher was still in the minors. The two, in the same spring camp for the first time, talk frequently.
”I’m glad to see that he’s a rover for the organization. He played hard every single day,” Shields said. ”I love him for what he has done for me but not only that, he loves to help kids and give back to the game of baseball.”