James Shields picked up a pair of wins for his efforts against the Blue Jays and Red Sox, and Monday he got something to go with them: the American League player of the week award.
"It's exciting to get that kind of honor, exciting for the organization as well as myself," Shields said before the Rays left Monday night for Baltimore, where they open a nine-game trip tonight. "We are having a lot of fun right now, and we will look to keep it going."
Shields was 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in the two starts, holding Toronto to two runs over seven innings April 22 then delivering a two-hit, complete-game shutout Sunday against Boston.
He was chosen by MLB officials over former Rays prospect Josh Hamilton, who hit .429 with 10 RBIs for Texas in the week ending Sunday, as well as Texas' Michael Young (.462, five extra-base hits), Detroit's Magglio Ordonez (.400, three homers, 10 RBIs), Yankees pitcher Chien-Ming Wang (2-0, 2.08 ERA) and Cleveland's Cliff Lee (1-0, 0.00).
Shields will receive a Swiss Tourneau watch for the award.
Kaz, Reyes SHARP: LHP Scott Kazmir worked into the sixth inning for Triple-A Durham on Monday, allowing three hits (including a solo home run) and a walk, in what is scheduled to be his final rehab start. Kazmir threw 81 pitches, four under the planned limit, and left after walking the leadoff man in the sixth on four pitches.
Kazmir, completing his recovery from a left elbow strain suffered Feb. 26, is expected to join the Rays in Baltimore today and, assuming all is well, start preparing for his first start of the season, most likely Sunday in Boston, where he will be limited to about 100 pitches.
RHP Al Reyes made an impressive second one-inning rehab appearance for Class A Vero, striking out the three batters he faced. Reyes, who had been out since April 16 with a shoulder impingement, is expected to rejoin the Rays on Thursday, assuming they are satisfied with his velocity. He topped out at about 85 mph in a rehab outing Saturday.
INF Ben Zobrist will need to have the pins stay in his fractured left thumb for another couple of weeks, but he will be allowed to DH left-handed in extended spring games starting today, which should reduce the time he needs once he is cleared.
View from the top: The sweep of Boston made for a busy couple of days for principal owner Stuart Sternberg, who lives in New York.
"When we beat the Yankees all of the people I know who like the Red Sox tell me how happy I have made them," he wrote in an e-mail Monday. "The last two days it has been the Yankees fans turn. And there have been plenty of them."
Sternberg, naturally, was thrilled with the weekend performance.
"The place in the standings doesn't excite me at all right now, the play on the field does," he wrote. "It is so gratifying to watch this come together and have real hope and expectation for what is yet to come."
Pitching in: The back-to-back sweeps of Toronto and Boston added up to more than just six straight wins as the Rays faced some of the league's most impressive pitchers, including starters Roy Halladay, Tim Wakefield, rookie Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett.
"That was a pretty good week of pitching that we just had to meander through," manager Joe Maddon said. "Those are all really high-end pitchers, those are above .500 pitchers, those are all championship-caliber pitchers. So you're not going to just beat them up, so you have to pitch and you have to play defense to beat those guys."
Miscellany: With Jorge Posada on the DL, the Yankees could have interest in C Mike DiFelice, who has rejoined Durham. … Even after drawing 98,701 for the three weekend games, the Rays' average attendance of 18,867 is still last in the AL and 28th in the majors. … ESPN's Buster Olney raised the question of the Rangers, under new president Nolan Ryan, having interest in hiring Rays senior VP Gerry Hunsicker.