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Tampa Bay Rays' James Shields seeks end to skid, uncertainty

ST. PETERSBURG — RHP James Shields, of course, has no way to know if he will be traded before the July 31 deadline for nonwaiver deals, which could make tonight's start his last at Tropicana Field as a Ray.

Executive VP Andrew Friedman, who makes the trades, also probably doesn't know yet what he's going to do with Shields, or with RHP Jeremy Hellickson, CF B.J. Upton, or any of the other players they might consider dealing on the team not named Price, Moore or Longoria.

But Shields, a Ray his entire career, knows this: He very much wants to stay.

He also said a recent CBSSports.com report suggesting he was frustrated and wanted out was 100 percent wrong.

"Absolutely not," he said. "There's no truth to that. I'm frustrated with the way I'm pitching, but that's about it. I love this organization. This is where I've been my whole career. They've treated me pretty good."

The Rays are at an interesting juncture with Shields, holding contract options for the next two seasons, but at the somewhat, on their scale, steep prices of $9 million in 2013 and $12 million in 2014.

Adding to the discussion, after a strong first month, Shields has been struggling. He is 3-6 with a 5.14 ERA over his past 13 starts and has allowed 10 or more hits in his last four.

Shields, 30, is confident he can get the pitching part turned around. He said he feels good, had an excellent between-starts bullpen session, and he and pitching coach Jim Hickey looked extensively at video and didn't uncover any major flaws.

And he knows the trade issue will work itself out.

"I definitely would love to stay here the rest of my career," Shields said. "But I also do understand this is a business, and things could change. But I'm really not too worried about that."

JOYCE OUT: OF Matt Joyce was unavailable and is a question mark for tonight's game. He was "stiff and sore" after playing two games since coming off the disabled list following oblique and back strains.

"At this point, it is what it is, and it's one of those things I just have to play through," Joyce said.

OF Hideki Matsui started Thursday in Joyce's place in rightfield and went 0-for-3, dropping his average to .159 with no homers and three RBIs in his last 28 games.

OF Sam Fuld, who seems likely to replace Matsui on the roster, came through his nine-inning Wednesday rehab appearance fine. Fuld, who had spring right wrist surgery, was off Thursday and scheduled to stay with Triple-A Durham through the weekend.

THE SPEEDY MOLINA: C Jose Molina's second-quickest move Thursday was dashing from the clubhouse without discussing his first: his second-inning steal of second base.

Molina, who ranks among the slowest Rays in team history, took advantage of a lack of attention from Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez and, much to the chagrin of catching counterpart Lou Marson, got his first steal since June 2011. Overall, it was Molina's 13th, including one in 2010 against the Rays.

"He stole, I didn't know what was going on," said Upton, who was batting.

"Me and the catcher just kind of looked at each other like, 'That really just happen?' "

HOT SCOTT: Since ending his team-record 0-for-41 steak, DH Luke Scott is 14-for-33 with eight extra-base hits. That included a homer Thursday, though manager Joe Maddon said he was more impressed with his double to left-center.

MISCELLANY: Molina also threw out a runner, and LHP David Price had a pickoff. … Upton, Jeff Keppinger and Sean Rodriguez wore the old-school stirrup socks equipment manager Chris Westmoreland and hitting coach Derek Shelton picked out, and they went 5-for-11 with two walks. … The Rays notched their seventh shutout.

Tampa Bay Rays' James Shields seeks end to skid, uncertainty 07/19/12 [Last modified: Thursday, July 19, 2012 10:36pm]

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