It's official: Shields starts opening day
UPDATE, 11:14: Shields was, predictably, excited with the news. "It means a lot,'' he said. "I put a lot of hard work into last season after 2010 and I had a fairly successful season. I think with our starting staff you can pick pretty much any of our guys to be opening day starter. ... It's definitely gratifying to be named opening day starter, for sure.''
BREAKING: Manager Joe Maddon made official the obvious - and not overly difficult - decision that James Shields will start the April 6 opener against the Yankees.
It will be Shields' fourth opening day assignment, having had the honors in 2008-09-10, then being supplanted last yer by David Price.
"We wanted to do that based on his body of work from last year,'' Maddon said.
Shields was 16-12, 2.82 with 11 complete games and finished third in the AL Cy Young voting. He also made the All-Star team and was voted team MVP.
Maddon said Shields was pleased when he gave him the news and Price in agreement and supportive. "James likes to be out in the lead all the time,'' Maddon said. "So he's very pleased and I feel good about it.''
Shields turned 30 in December, and when he does start the opener it will end the Rays major-league record streak of 764 games started by pitchers under 30.
"I'm going to put an end to the streak first game, so that's going to be real nice,'' he said.