ST. PETERSBURG — RHP James Shields would seem unlikely to be traded. He is not only one of the Rays' best starters, but also the leader of the staff, and not overly expensive next season even with a $7-million option.
But if Shields were to be dealt, and the Reds and Cardinals are among those said to be interested, tonight would be his last start at the Trop. And after spending six seasons with the Rays, and 12 in the organization, and making his home in Clearwater, that's not an appealing thought.
"I want to play here," Shields said. "I want to be here. This has been my home for my whole career. I haven't really thought about it, to be honest with you. I love this town. I want to be here. And I think we have a good team."
Shields said he doesn't "really care" about trade rumors, knowing they are part of the game this time of year, and is much more interested in his next assignment.
Shields will match up tonight with Yankees ace CC Sabathia for the second time in less than two weeks. Both threw complete games July 10 in New York, the Yankees winning 1-0 when Shields made an errant pickoff toss.
"Last game was a good pitching matchup," Shields said. "If you're going to lose a game on one unearned run, there's nothing really else you can do about it. So I'm looking forward to it. I'm sure CC's ready to rock over there, and we're going to go at it."
The Rays leave after tonight's game for a 10-game trip to Kansas City, Oakland and Seattle that takes them through the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, returning Aug. 2 vs. Toronto.
"As far I'm concerned I'm pretty sure I'm going to come back (with the team), but you never know," Shields said. "I'm not going to pack for an extended trip."
SIX-PACK: With RHP Wade Davis set to come off the disabled list and start Friday in Kansas City, the Rays are planning to go with a six-man rotation, at least for now.
Rookie RHP Alex Cobb, who took Davis' last turn, is scheduled to start Sunday, allowing the Rays to give their other starters an extra day's rest overall and specifically to better limit the innings thrown by rookie RHP Jeremy Hellickson (he has 110⅔, they'd like to keep him to 160-170). But they'd have to send down a reliever to create a roster spot for Davis, so those plans to start Cobb could change if the bullpen gets blown up between now and then.
"It's not impossible to see six," manager Joe Maddon said. "But I'm not certain about that right now."
If the Rays stick with this plan, they'll start Davis, RHP Jeff Niemann and Cobb against the Royals, then Hellickson, David Price, Shields and Davis at Oakland.
TROP TALK: There was mixed reaction to team president Matt Silverman's statement on Tuesday that the stadium situation had become a distraction that was affecting the clubhouse and play on the field.
Shields said, "For me it's not. …. I don't think it's a distraction at all. … This is my sixth season, so I'm kind of used to all the stuff that goes on here."
Maddon said, "I stand by what Matthew said. No caveats. … I agree with Matt."
WADING IN: Davis, on the DL since July 7 with a right forearm strain, said he felt good in bullpen sessions Monday and Wednesday. "It's all coming together pretty good," he said.
MEDICAL MATTERS: RF/2B Ben Zobrist didn't start but was available to pinch-hit after leaving Tuesday's game with his right calf bruised by a foul ball. … RF Matt Joyce returned to the lineup for the first time since Saturday, when he fouled a ball off his right knee.
MISCELLANY: Maddon said umpire Ed Rapuano waved off a Joel Peralta pitch in the ninth Tuesday because he wasn't ready behind the plate, not because Peralta's delivery was too quick.
Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.