James Shields will start first game after All-Star break for Tampa Bay Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — Struggling RHP James Shields will stay at the front of the Rays' rotation and RHP Matt Garza moves to the back to start the post-All-Star break schedule.

Manager Joe Maddon said those decisions, as well as slotting RHP Jeff Niemann, LHP David Price and RHP Wade Davis between them, were made to maximize the time off between starts.

"It's all primarily based on rest," he said.

In the new rotation, Shields, Niemann and Price will face the Yankees in New York next weekend, matched up against CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. Davis will open the next series in Baltimore followed by Garza and Shields.

There seemed to be two key points in the Rays' decision-making.

With Price expected to start Tuesday's All-Star Game and work two innings, they wanted him to have the standard four days' rest before his next start.

And with Garza making two starts and a relief appearance in a six-day period last week, they wanted him to get the most rest. He'll get nine days off.

"It came down to Davis and Garza, and we just moved Garza to the end primarily because of start-relief-start," Maddon said. "Just wanted to give him more time … give him a couple extra days and really get him off to a good start in the second half."

The new arrangement splits up Shields and Davis, who have been struggling (with a team-high nine losses each) and pitching in consecutive games. But Maddon said that was not the purpose.

SHIELDS UP: Though Shields is 1-8, 7.00 in his past nine starts, neither he, Maddon nor pitching coach Jim Hickey believe there is anything significantly wrong.

"He's not throwing the ball badly. He's not pitching badly," Maddon said. "There's not a whole lot I could tell him to do differently."

Shields said he feels "really strong" physically, his velocity is consistent and his command and location are good.

"I think it's just kind of one of those things. It's really weird," he said. "I've got to get out of it somehow."

What he will address is finishing games better.

"I think I'm pitching pretty well. I just have to finish a little stronger," he said. "I don't feel like I'm tired at all. I just need to probably bear down and focus a littler harder."

REST FOR C.C.: In what Maddon said was a preventative, not reactive, move, Carl Crawford was limited to DH duties Saturday to rest his left shoulder, which forced him to miss three-plus games last month. He might be limited again today.

"I wanted to give him a day from not having to throw," Maddon said. "I just want to be careful with that; the fact that he's coming off that injury and he's going to be playing on Tuesday (in the All-Star Game)."

STARRY EYED: All-Stars Crawford, Price, 3B Evan Longoria and closer Rafael Soriano were presented their red American League jerseys in a pregame ceremony. They leave after today's game for southern California with a workout Monday and the game Tuesday.

MINOR MATTERS: 2B Tyler Bortnick and LHP Kyle Lobstein made it a sweep for Class A Bowling Green in the June player and pitcher of the month awards. Bortnick hit .320 with four homers and 11 RBIs. Lobstein went 4-0, 1.10 with two strikeouts in 301/3 innings. … Triple-A Durham INF Dan Johnson's 24 homers match the most of all minor-league players. His 80 RBIs are second. … Class A Charlotte's Joe Cruz extended his scoreless streak to 22 innings while improving to 7-5, 3.34. … INF Chris Nowak was released from Double-A Montgomery.

MISCELLANY: Barring an unexpected deal, former DH Hank Blalock will clear waivers Monday and become a free agent. … RF Ben Zobrist matched his career high with his 17th steal. … 1B Carlos Peña drew his team-high 50th walk. … Longoria grounded into two double plays after having done it just four times all season. … Price and OF Gabe Kapler will sign autographs for kids from noon to 12:30 today behind first base. … St. Petersburg's Jake Taylor will represent the Rays at Monday's Pitch, Hit & Run youth skills competition in Anaheim.

James Shields will start first game after All-Star break for Tampa Bay Rays 07/10/10 [Last modified: Sunday, July 11, 2010 12:58am]

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