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.