05/04/2007 11:50 AM ET
Q&A with Devil Rays' James Shields
By Jeff Moeller / MLBPLAYERS.com
After winning six games as a rookie last year with Tampa Bay, James Shields is off to a 3-0 start following his 7 1/3-inning effort against the Twins on Thursday night. The 25-year-old right-hander had a career-high 12-strikeout performance against the Indians on April 22. He has 45 strikeouts and just nine walks through 43 1/3 innings to show for his first six games this season. A native of Newhall, Calif., Shields recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com.
James Shields was effective over 7 1/3 innings, allowing only three runs. (Mike Carlson/AP)
MLBPLAYERS.com: How is your second season going so far?
Shields: It's been going good. I learned a lot last year. I went through ups and downs, which adds to that learning experience. This year, I have a better feel in terms of what to expect in a big-league game. It's very different than pitching in a Minor League game.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What would you say is the biggest thing you have learned in the last calendar year?
Shields: Making adjustments. That's the biggest thing I've learned so far -- making adjustments during a game.
MLBPLAYERS.com: With that experience from a year ago under your belt, did you come into this season with a lot more confidence?
Shields: No doubt about it. At the same time, my focus remains on the season at hand. I feel like I've taken what I learned from last year and applied it this year. As a team, I think we've been pretty solid so far and I'm happy about that. Every day up here is a learning experience in itself. It's been a lot of fun, and having learned what I did last year, I'm moving on.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Based on what you have accomplished so far, can you relax at all?
Shields: No. There's no way I can relax. This is such a grind and you always have guys at Triple-A who are looking for jobs up here. I haven't even had a full year yet. I'm taking it one day -- and one game -- at a time.
MLBPLAYERS.com: On April 22 you had a 12-strikeout performance. Was that a case of everything just working well for you that night?
Shields: Without a doubt. I made one mistake that game, to Jhonny Peralta when he hit it out, but that was a game where I was really cruising and rolling along. I was getting ahead of hitters and I was throwing my offspeed pitch for strikes.
MLBPLAYERS.com: When you're throwing your breaking ball for strikes, does that help you out tremendously on the mound?
Shields: Definitely. It gives me even more confidence in my other pitches. I'm basically a fastball-changeup guy. My changeup is my out-pitch, and if I had to throw a different pitch during a game as my out-pitch, it might end up being a very different ballgame. It really helps me keep hitters off balance.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Do you consider yourself a strikeout pitcher?
Shields: No. Not at all.
MLBPLAYERS.com: When you think of a strikeout pitcher, do you think of a guy like teammate Scott Kazmir?
Shields: Oh yeah. Kaz is a power pitcher. He strikes out guys left and right. His slider is a power slider. He has a really good fastball. When I think of strikeouts, I also think of guys like Johan Santana and Roger Clemens.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Off the field, what do you like to do for fun?
Shields: I love to golf. I like to go golfing as much as I can. I also love to hang out with my daughter.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You're not the only athlete from Hart High School to be in the pros, right?
Shields: That's correct. I went to school with Jerry Owens, who is now an outfielder in the White Sox organization, and Kyle Boller, the quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens. Our high school had a lot of talent. And long ago, Todd Zeile and Kevin Millar went there, too. I feel fortunate to be one of them.