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Tampa Bay Rays opening day starter James Shields not concerned after rough outing

FORT MYERS — Opening day starter James Shields didn't have good stuff, good control or good command Friday in an outing he described as garbage.

Also describing the outing as "not really me," at least the right-hander had some humor after allowing 11 runs on 12 hits, including three homers, plus three walks and a hit batter in 4? innings of a 16-2 loss to the Twins.

Shields said everything felt fine but joked that he obviously wasn't up for the challenge after throwing in minor-league games his previous two outings against Minnesota's Triple-A Rochester team.

"I did well against their Triple-A squad, so they thought they'd bring me up for the big-league squad, but that didn't go over too well," he said. And also, "Joe (Maddon, manager) decided to call me up from the minor leagues finally, and I pretty much didn't help my cause for staying here."

Shields threw 92 pitches but said "it seemed like 255, to be honest." After (curiously) hitting Carlos Gomez in the Twins' five-run fifth, Shields said: "I don't know if that was me trying to go inside or just trying to throw a strike."

Maddon said he was not concerned because Shields' velocity was good and he is healthy: "They just hit him." Shields has a final tuneup for the April 6 opener on Wednesday in Port Charlotte.

ORDER UP: The Rays (12-12-1) today will start what could be their opening day lineup against Boston but not necessarily in the same order. 2B Akinori Iwamura will hit leadoff, CF Ben Zobrist seventh, RF Gabe Gross eighth and SS Jason Bartlett ninth. Maddon has talked about moving Iwamura to eighth or ninth and using Zobrist and-or Bartlett in the top spot until CF B.J. Upton returns. He plans to discuss it with Iwamura, who reported to camp Thursday after the World Baseball Classic.

"I'm not real crystal on it, mentally," Maddon said. "I need to just go over it a little bit more. I have ideas, and I do need to talk to Aki, yes."

Iwamura said remaining in the leadoff spot "would be ideal" but he won't object to changes. "At the same time, I play for the team, and if the decision is made by the team, I follow it," he said through interpreter Bori Uchibori.

The regulars are slated to play together again for eight or nine innings Monday, Wednesday and Friday to be "stretched out" for the opener.

Iwamura was excited to make his Rays spring training debut Friday. He had a triple and an RBI groundout after wearing No. 8 and hitting eighth and ninth in the WBC: "I actually felt really good wearing the No. 1 uniform again and hitting in the No. 1 spot. I felt real fresh today."

MEDICAL MATTERS: RHP Matt Garza, who acknowledged dead-arm issues, said he felt better after throwing 91 pitches in a minor-league intrasquad game Wednesday: "It's still dead, but it's coming out of it." … RHP Troy Percival came through his first back-to-back appearances of the spring with no problems, and he likely will pitch Sunday. … Upton plays again today in a minor-league game and may DH on Sunday.

MISCELLANY: With RHP Jason Hammel starting today and RHP Jeff Niemann not scheduled for another start, Maddon said the decision on the fifth starter will be announced in a couple of days. … Friday was the first day players could be placed on the disabled list, but there is no rush because the move can be backdated to Friday as long as the player doesn't appear in a big-league exhibition.

Tampa Bay Rays opening day starter James Shields not concerned after rough outing 03/27/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 28, 2009 6:19am]
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