James Shields is creative. Rays coaches and catchers rave about all the different ways he throws his pitches, and hitters grumble about the confusing combinations. But he's pretty impressive off the mound, too. He loves to cook, has some musical skills, plays a decent round of golf. (Plus his wife, Ryane, has her own photography biz.) And he has just designed his second T-shirt, which will be given away at Friday's game.
"I think it's pretty cool," Shields said. "It's nice and simple, not as graphic-artsy as the last one. And not as loud. I went for more of a surf-style, more of a laid-back look, more casual. Threw a couple lines and some fades in there. It's a little more on the low side. You've got to go with the trends of what people are wearing these days."
Shields said he got good feedback on last year's version, which featured skulls, flaming baseballs and gothic type. This one plays off the latest "version" of his Big Game nickname, Juego G, which is short for Juego Grande.
Shields provided the design elements, chose from several versions, made several tweaks and had final say, including the color scheme.
"This is all me," he said. "I think people will like it. They liked the last one."
Among the issues Rays manager Joe Maddon, and others, have with interleague play is the further imbalance it adds to the schedule. There are already built-in inequities in having teams from different divisions compete for a wild-card spot based on the current setup, which has the Rays playing 18 games against the Red Sox and Yankees while the Tigers, for example, might be feasting on the Twins and Royals. But while that's a known and transparent flaw, the interleague schedule is a much more (supposedly) random element, as the combination of maintaining "natural rivals" and apparently more-than-you'd think complications in pairing divisions (AL East vs. NL Central, etc.) makes for huge swings that could affect both the division and wild-card races. And it will only be a larger issue — assuming interleague play survives in the next labor agreement — if the playoff field is expanded, and restructured, putting more of an emphasis on winning the division. So how does it work out this year? Not as well for the Rays, who play the two best NL Central teams (Reds and Cards), as the Red Sox, who don't play either and get the added bonus of a series vs. the Padres (though also the Phillies). Or the Yankees, who miss the Cardinals but get the Rockies (plus six games with the Mets).
Here's a look at their interleague opponents, ranked by opponents winning percentage going into the weekend:
6 vs. Marlins (.571)
3 vs. Reds (.568)
3 vs. Cardinals (.578)
3 at Astros (.341)
3 at Brewers (.477)
6 vs. Mets (.488)
3 at Cubs (.452)
3 at Reds (.568)
3 vs. Rockies (.548)
3 vs. Brewers (.477)
RED SOX .462
3 vs. Cubs (.452)
3 vs. Brewers (.477)
3 vs. Padres (.432)
3 at Pirates (.465)
3 at Phillies (.605)
3 at Astros (.341)
Astros owner-to-be Jim Crane can pine all he wants, but it's extremely, almost impossibly unlikely that exec VP Andrew Friedman would leave to go home to Houston (unless the future of the Rays' franchise is in true jeopardy). … Johnny Damon ranked as the third "nicest" player (behind Jim Thome and Raul Ibanez) in SI's annual poll of big-leaguers. … Humble rookie RHP Brandon Gomes on the experience of his first big-league road trips: "So first class, you can't even explain it to your buddies back home." … Former Ray Aki Iwamura, according to reports out of Japan, was dropped from the Rakuten Eagles active roster after hitting .169 in 24 games and told to lose weight. … Jays super-slugger Jose Bautista was a Ray briefly during a whirlwind 2004 season, claimed on waivers from the O's (who had taken him in the Rule 5 draft from Pittsburgh) then three weeks and a .167 average later, sold to the Royals for $50,000. … Former Ray Carl Crawford, to the New York Times, on the "biggest difference" of playing with the Red Sox than the Rays: "Being watched all the time, the attention you get."
Got a minute? | Kyle Farnsworth
Must-see TV? Ultimate Hunting, with Knight and Hale.
Band or singer you'd like to be on stage with? Hank Williams — probably Junior. But it'd be cool to be on stage with all three of them.
Worst job? Working on a horse farm, shoveling manure in the stables.
Ideal vacation spot? I went to Cody, Wyo., a couple years ago, that was pretty nice.
With your wife Shayla's permission, dream date? Shania Twain, I'd guess.