The Padres signed pitcher James Shields to a record free agent contract last winter, and he subsequently started Opening Day for the Padres continuing the Padres revolving day of Opening Day starters since Jake Peavy left. This year that door continues its turn as Tyson Ross is rewarded for two consecutive very good seasons as he was recently named by manager Andy Green as the Padres opening day starter for 2016. For Shields – he sees it as a personal challenge to get that honor back as reported by Mike Cranston.
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Remember Shields rose as an ace with the Rays before David Price emerged as a co-ace for the team. If you don’t remember that, Shields does:
“I think in 2011, David Price (in Tampa Bay) took my opening-day start after three years. And I got it right back the next year. I pride myself going deep in games and just posting every five days.”
Last year, in typical Shields fashion he led the Padres in innings and finished his ninth straight 200 inning season, now the longest such streak in baseball as Mark Buehrle just missed 200 innings after 14 straight seasons of dependability. However, what was not up to Shields usual performance was home runs and walks. He tied for the league lead in home runs allowed – with his home ballpark being at Petco Park no less – and his 81 walks were the highest total of his career.
Now the Padres will get to see their de facto ace in Shields pitch against other teams number two pitchers and hopefully see a return to form. If Tyson Ross continues to improve against stiffer competition it will go a long way in the Padres bid to surprise in the NL West this season.
Shiels is in the second year of his 4 year deal and insists he can continue to pitch well and deep into games and the season.
“I just try to do as much as I can to take care of my body in-between starts and, obviously, in the offseason have a good workout program, but with that said, definitely good luck is on my side. I’ve been very fortunate to stay healthy and stay intact.”
Andy Green has talked a lot early about empowering his team, and Shields is certainly a huge part of that. Shields has led wherever he has played, whether it be leading the Rays to the World Series after a decade of futility or the Royals to the World Series after nearly three decades. It was certainly a big part of why he was brought in last year and he hopes to continue that arc in 2016 – just from the second spot in the rotation.