Tampa Bay Rays' James Shields shares AL player of the week, hopes for All-Star berth

MILWAUKEE — RHP James Shields was honored to get a share of a second American League player of the week award after his pair of complete games, but it's become clear the true reward he's seeking for his stellar start is a spot on the AL All-Star team.

"If I get picked it would be a really, really big honor for me," Shields said. "That's one of the things that I've strived for, is to be able to make an All-Star team in my career. And if that happens I would definitely be happy about it."

The next issue, though, would be whether he'd be available to pitch.

The Rays are again tweaking their rotation, and there is a decent possibility Shields will pitch the final game before the break, July 10 at New York. That would make him ineligible to pitch in the All-Star Game, though he would still be considered part of the team and participate in the festivities in Phoenix.

After the latest change, Shields will pitch Friday, staying on a five-day cycle, with RHP Wade Davis pushed back to Saturday.

Shields, with a 7-4 record, 2.40 ERA (that ranks second in the AL) and a major league-most five complete games, has a good case to be either voted in by the players or selected by AL manager Ron Washington, of Texas.

Manager Joe Maddon has been campaigning, but Shields isn't going to politick: "I'm not one to beg for the All-Star Game, there's no doubt about it. I'm going to go ahead and let my numbers speak for itself."

Shields shared the weekly honor with Detroit RHP Justin Verlander.

JOHNNY BE GOOD? DH Johnny Damon started in leftfield Monday, but his status for the rest of the NL-rules week will be determined on a game-by-game basis. Maddon said the decision is balancing keeping Damon's bat in the lineup against the possibility of weakening the defense too much or wearing down Damon.

"We'll try to get him out there as often as possible and see what it looks like," Maddon said.

Damon said he was "comfortable" with the plan.

HICKEY ABSENT: Pitching coach Jim Hickey was not with the team due to a fire at his St. Cloud home that Maddon described as "pretty significant."

No one was hurt in the Sunday blaze, which started in and was contained to the garage, but it created smoke and soot damage throughout the house. Hickey's family had to relocate to a relative's home. Assistant Stan Boroski filled in; Hickey is expected back today.

DRAFT BREEZE: The Rays signed SS Jake Hager, the third of their three first-round draft picks, and two compensation-round choices, No. 42 RHP Jeff Ames and No. 60 OF James Harris. … Scouting director R.J. Harrison meets Wednesday in South Carolina with top pick RHP Taylor Guerrieri.

MINOR MATTERS: INFs Derek Dietrich and Phil Wunderlich and Ps Eliazer Suero and C.J. Riefenhauser will represent Class A Bowling Green in tonight's Midwest League All-Star Game. … Double-A Montgomery LHP Matt Moore will start the Southern League All-Star Game. … Triple-A Durham OF Brandon Guyer, hitting .323 overall, was named International League batter of the week for his .409 performance, and Class A Charlotte 2B Tyler Bortnick won Florida State League honors. … OFs Josh Sale and Drew Vettleson, the Rays' top 2010 picks, will make their pro debuts tonight with rookie-level Princeton.

MISCELLANY: Hellickson nation hit the road again, with about 35 of RHP Jeremy Hellickson's friends and relatives expected to make the seven-hour drive from their native Des Moines, Iowa, for tonight's game. … Rays pitchers knocked down Brewers slugger Prince Fielder twice with high and tight pitches. … The Rays were 0-for-4 with the bases loaded, dropping their average in such situations to a major league-low .178. … Ben Zobrist logged his 24th double, tops in the majors. … Brewers OF Ryan Braun was scratched from the lineup with an upper respiratory infection.

Tampa Bay Rays' James Shields shares AL player of the week, hopes for All-Star berth 06/20/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 1:47am]

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