Padres News: James Shields Getting It Done

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There is something to be said about simply knowing how to win. James Shields knows that feeling. When the Padres signed him to a Padres free agency record $75M contract over the winter, they were counting on him bringing that mentality to San Diego. He has delivered.

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In an article for USA Today by legendary baseball writer Bob Nightengale, he writes about all the doubts teams had about Shields as he watched other free agent pitchers Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, heck even non-lengendary ones like Edison Volquez and Ervin Santana sign their contracts and he sat still on the wire. They said he had thrown too many innings. Shields dismisses that reasoning:

"“I’m not an old-school player, but I feel like I’m an old-school soul. I grew up watchingOrel Hershiser and guys like that take the ball and want to finish the game. That’s the mentality I have. That will never change.”"

Indeed. Through Friday night Shields is second among all MLB pitchers in strikeouts, down 2 to Clayton Kershaw. He is in the top 10 for innings pitched and tied for second with several others with 5 wins. Pretty good for a guy people thought might have already thrown all of his bullets.

One man who is not surprised at all is Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore who personally flew to Seattle last Monday to present Shields with his AL Championship ring that Shields brought to Kansas City last season. The Royals couldn’t afford the price tag of Shields this year, but it doesn’t mean they didn’t want to bring him back or appreciated all he brought his two years in the land of BBQ.

"“All I can tell you is that he brought a toughness, a swagger, a fearlessness,” Moore explained when asked about Shields “and helped change our culture. Shieldsy has such a great passion for what he does, that raw emotion and intensity, that desire to compete."

That has already been evident this year for the Padres. There are nights like Wednesday when things are easy. Ho-hum, 6 innings, 9 strikeouts, 1 run allowed. What has been so enjoyable to watch about Shields this season is the games where things aren’t quite right but he seems to will his team around him to do better. Take last Friday against Arizona. He allowed 4 home runs in 6 innings and 5 runs. Yet he struck out 7, grinding his 108 pitches out to finish those six innings he feels are required of him. He has only not finished 6 in one start where he went 5 1/3. The Padres scored again in the 7th and he was able to pick up his fourth win. That performance rubs off on others.

One pitcher who Shields is rubbing off on is Andrew Cashner. Cashner is actually averaging more innings per start than Shields and has actually allowed 6 fewer earned runs than Shields. Unfortunately he has allowed 10 unearned runs which is part of why his record is 1-6 instead of 5-0. Ian Kennedy had this to say about his new staff-mate:

“He’s everything you’d possibly want in a teammate. You heard so many good things before he got here. Great guy. Greater leader. Great teammate. Great competitor. Well, everything is true, and even more so, he just brings that edge here.”

The Padres aren’t exactly taking the league by storm. Their starting pitching has given up the most homers in the league and has the fifth worst ERA in the league. In some ways though, this might be seen as a good thing for the Friar Faithful. After all, we know that right now James Shields is winning without pitching his absolute best. We know that Andrew Cashner is pitching well and running into some bad luck. While Brandon Morrow got hurt Odrisamer Despaigne did not do so well this time around subbing in the rotation, but help might be on the way. Robbie Erlin who started 11 games for the Padres last year is in AAA and has a 4-2 record. Josh Johnson and Corey Luebke continue on their comeback trails and Morrow will be back soon. In other words, we know it will get better, and all signs are pointing that the offense will be there this time when the pitching should be able to re-establish itself at the top of the National League West.

The Padres have their sights set on a bigger prize, and that too is what brought Shields here in the first place.

“I’m 33 years old now, I don’t know how many more years I’m going to play, but I want to win that championship. I wanted to go to a team that not only wants to win now, but win over the next three or four years. During the off-season, I didn’t know what direction the Padres were going in, but once they started making all of their moves, they proved to me they definitely wanted to win.”

Shields is doing his part on that quest, how far he can carry yet another team to a title remains to be seen.

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