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Shields tabbed for Opening Day start

4

March

5:12 p.m. Shields said "it's an honor" and "means a lot" that he'll get to start Opening Day for the second straight season, but admits that finding it out so early caught him a bit off guard.

"I actually was pretty shocked, you don’t normally find out until the last week of spring training," Shields said. " But I think he wanted to get it out of the way..It's a great honor. I'm gonna try to start the season off with a bang, hopefully start off with a win against the BoSox and continue what we did last year."

Manager Joe Maddon said RHP James Shields will start Opening Day April 6 in Boston, with LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Matt Garza and RHP Andy Sonnanstine following him in that order for the regular season.

The fifth spot, of course, is still an open competition with several pitchers, like LHP David Price, RHPs Jason Hammel, Jeff Niemann and Mitch Talbot.

Maddon said Shields "earned the right" with his body of work, but also emphasized the Rays wanted to split up the right-handed Shields and Garza with the left-handed Kazmir to give their rotation some balance.

Shields, who was the opening day starter last year while Kazmir was on the disabled list, tied the franchise record with 14 wins, and worked 215 innings - sixth in the American League.

"We’re at the point now we have three guys that we feel could open up for us at any given time," Maddon said. "But obviously choosing one based on the body of work that (Shields) has done, we chose to go with him first. But we’re just trying to balance us out which makes most sense for us. And we chose to do it this way."

Maddon also set the schedule for the main starters spring debuts:

SATURDAY: Shields starting against the Red Sox in Port Charlotte, with Jason Hammel coming in later.

SUNDAY: RHP Wade Davis on against the Red Sox in Fort Myers

MONDAY: Kazmir against the Twins in Port Charlotte, with Jeff Niemann following.

TUESDAY: Garza and Sonnanstine against Blue Jays in Port Charlotte

David Price will make his spring debut on Tuesday against the Blue Jays here in Port Charlotte, following Garza and Sonnanstine.

The main starters will likely get two innings of work off the bat, with the Hammels and Niemanns going longer after them.

The Rays plan to ease Price into camp, with their biggest concern that he bumps his innings up too much this year. But Maddon said he's still going to be considered for that fifth and final rotation spot.

-- JOE SMITH

joesmith@sptimes.com

[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:45am]

    

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