Team­mates value vet­eran Shields, re­gard­less of stats

Chicago Sun-Times - - SOXBEAT - Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ CST_ sox­van. Email: dvan­schouwen@sun­ DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN

GLEN­DALE, Ariz. — Right- han­der James Shields is far from No. 1 in the hearts of White Sox fans. That’s how it’s go­ing to be when you ar­rive on the scene at a con­sid­er­able cost and flop to the tune of a 6.77 ERA and 31 home runs al­lowed in four months.

Shields, who was booed when the Na­tion­als raked him for seven runs and eight hits — in­clud­ing three homers — in two in­nings in his first home start after the Sox traded for him last sea­son, to­tally gets his place among the fans and wants to win them over this sea­son. But when it comes to where he stands in the Sox’ club­house, it’s a dif­fer­ent story.

Shields is the al­pha dog, man­ager Rick Ren­te­ria said. That just comes with 11 years of ex­pe­ri­ence, nine con­sec­u­tive sea­sons of pitch­ing 200 in­nings or more and 11 post­sea­son starts, in­clud­ing three in the World Se­ries.

So where fans view him through a ‘‘ what have you done for me lately’’ sort of lens, Shields’ team­mates see the big pic­ture.

‘‘ With his play­off ex­pe­ri­ence, years here and po­si­tion in the game of base­ball, he’s a nat­u­ral go- to guy when you need that vet­eran lead­er­ship,’’ in­fielder Tyler Sal­adino said.

And Shields’ 6- 19 record last sea­son means noth­ing in that re­gard?

‘‘ Not at all,’’ Sal­adino said. ‘‘ The game of base­ball is hum­bling, and he has ex­pe­ri­enced plenty of things. Be­cause he’s had suc­cess and ex­treme fail­ure, he’s a great guy to go to for ev­ery­thing. He’ll tell you that’s part of it.’’ Plus, Shields is 35. ‘‘ I’m the old­est guy in the camp,’’ he said, laugh­ing at the sound of that. ‘‘ It’s OK to say that. I take that as a com­pli­ment. They were call­ing me ‘ el­der states­man’ when I was in Tampa, so I’m kind of used to it. But I still feel young, and age is a num­ber. I still feel great.’’

Shields said he ‘‘ wouldn’t go that far’’ to say it’s his club­house. That’s part mod­esty and part know­ing his per­for­mance with the Sox last sea­son was bad.

‘‘ I’m just one of the team­mates, man,’’ he said. ‘‘ But I hope peo­ple see me as a leader.’’

A case in point: With the Padres early last sea­son, Shields called ris­ing star and team­mate Wil My­ers

‘‘ I’m just one of the team­mates, man. But I hope peo­ple see me as a leader.’’ James Shields, White Sox right- han­der

to his ho­tel room, or­dered room ser­vice and talked about base­ball and life for four hours. My­ers now cred­its Shields for giv­ing him a needed kick in the rear and telling him to play through a wrist is­sue.

‘‘ If you’re hurt, you’re hurt,’’ Shields said. ‘‘ But at the end of the day, you men­tally have to go out and grind 162 [ games] out and put up your num­bers.’’

Shields, who is sched­uled to make his sec­ond start of the spring Tues­day against the Rangers, said aches and pains aren’t an is­sue for him.

‘‘ My body feels good,’’ he said. ‘‘ The ball is com­ing out of my hand pretty de­cent right now, which here in spring train­ing is all that mat­ters.

‘‘ I def­i­nitely think I was try­ing to do too much [ after the Sox ac­quired him in a trade June 4 with the Padres]. My ball was re­ally flat last year; I didn’t have a very good an­gle on my ball last year. But some­times you get in ruts like that.’’ It was never about de­sire. ‘‘ I go all out every pitch,’’ Shields said.

Ren­te­ria said he is look­ing for­ward to bet­ter things from Shields this sea­son.

‘‘ Do I ex­pect that he will [ bounce back]?’’ Ren­te­ria said. ‘‘ I’m hop­ing he will. He does not like look­ing bad out there, and he’s a com­peti­tor. Time will tell. . . . I hope and an­tic­i­pate he will have a bounce- back year and put him­self on the map again.’’


Right- han­der James Shields says he tried to do too much after the Sox traded for him last sea­son.

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