Shields may re­tire; An­gels don’t quit

Re­liever says be­fore the team’s vic­tory over A’s that he’s lean­ing to­ward hang­ing up his spikes.

Los Angeles Times - - Sports - Mike DiGio­vanna mike.digio­vanna@latimes.com

Cen­ter of at­ten­tion

Ev­ery­one thought the arm would go, so it seems a bit ironic that a knee in­jury ul­ti­mately led to the demise of Scot Shields, the rub­ber-armed re­liever whose dura­bil­ity and de­pend­abil­ity made him one of base­ball’s best setup men from 2004 to 2008.

Shields said Tues­day that he is lean­ing heav­ily to­ward re­tir­ing af­ter this sea­son, his in­abil­ity to bounce back from surgery on his left knee in 2009 and the emer­gence of sev­eral young re­liev­ers push­ing the vet­eran right-han­der out of the An­gels’ pic­ture for 2011.

“I would say prob­a­bly,” Shields, when asked whether he would re­tire, said be­fore the An­gels’ game against the Oak­land Ath­let­ics on Tues­day night. “There’s a busi­ness side of it and a per­sonal side of it. From a busi­ness side, just look at the bullpen here.

“From a per­sonal side, my fam­ily comes first, and I’ve missed too much of my life with them, so it might be time to go home. I had a great time here. I wish the or­ga­ni­za­tion the best of luck in the fu­ture.”

Shields, who is mar­ried with two daugh­ters, ages 8 and 5, was se­lected setup man of the decade by Sports Il­lus­trated, and his 425 in­nings pitched from 2004 to 2008, when he was 35-29 with a 3.11 earned-run av­er­age, were the most by any big league re­liever.

The last re­main­ing link to the An­gels’ 2002 World Se­ries cham­pi­onship team, Shields, who re­lied on a lively 94-mph sink­ing fast­ball and curve, also led the Amer­i­can League in holds from 2006 to 2008, with 31in each sea­son.

But patel­lar ten­dini­tis in his left knee limited Shields, who is in the fi­nal year of a four-year, $18-mil­lion con­tract, to 20 games in 2009 — he was 1-3 with a 6.62 ERA in 172⁄ in­nings — and he un­der­went sea­so­nend­ing surgery that June.

Though Shields, 35, looked strong at times this sea­son, he never came close to re­gain­ing his form and was 0-3 with a 5.28 ERA in 43 games, most of them mop-up sit­u­a­tions, be­fore be­ing shut down be­cause of a sore el­bow af­ter a Sept. 7 game against Cleve­land.

Shields threw in the bullpen over the week­end in hopes of mak­ing one fi­nal ap­pear­ance in An­gel Sta­dium, but his el­bow re­mained sore, and he was ad­vised not to pitch again this sea­son.

He has a record of 46-44 with a 3.18 ERA in 10 sea­sons.

“He was filthy,” said right fielder Torii Hunter, who was hit­less in five at-bats against Shields while play­ing for Min­nesota. “He had that weird de­liv­ery, he’d sling his arm and the ball would come at you at 93-94 mph. He was one of the top five guys I wouldn’t want to face.”

Shields com­bined with closers Troy Per­ci­val and Fran­cisco Ro­driguez to give the An­gels a for­mi­da­ble back-of-the-bullpen one-two punch for much of the last decade, and he is at least partly re­spon­si­ble for the in­crease in salaries of non­clos­ing re­liev­ers.

“He changed the way we look at re­liev­ers,” Hunter said. “He set the bar for a lot of peo­ple in the game.”

Man­ager Mike Scios­cia put Shields in “an elite class.”

“He was the gold stan­dard of setup guys, and we were for­tu­nate to have him,” Scios­cia said. “He was a big in­flu­ence on what Percy and Frankie were able to ac­com­plish, and he takes great pride in that.”

Rookie cen­ter fielder Peter Bour­jos made a div­ing catch of Ra­jai Davis’ drive to the left-cen­ter field gap in the third in­ning and leaped above the wall to rob Lan­don Pow­ell of a two-run homer in the fourth to help the An­gels’ de­feat the A’s, 4-2, Tues­day night.

Hunter hit a home run in the sec­ond, his 22nd, and sin­gled and scored in a de­ci­sive two-run sixth, which fea­tured Mike Napoli’s run­scor­ing sin­gle and Hideki Mat­sui’s run-scor­ing ground­out.

Dan Haren (4-4) gave up two runs and six hits in six in­nings to help the An­gels pull into a sec­ond­place tie with Oak­land in the Amer­i­can League West.

Nick Laham

BIG DE­CI­SION: Scot Shields says an in­abil­ity to re­cover from knee surgery in 2009 might lead him to end his ca­reer.

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