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Tampa Bay Rays pitcher James Shields eager to make up for season's worst start

ST. PETERSBURG — Having an extra couple of days to stew over his last start — the worst of his All-Star season — hasn't sat well with RHP James Shields.

"I've been itching to get back out there since that day," Shields said. "I'm ready to go."

Shields tied a career worst by allowing 10 runs on 12 hits over four innings in Oakland last Wednesday. Knowing how competitive Shields is, manager Joe Maddon said he's eager to see how he bounces back tonight against the Blue Jays.

"He's been pretty focused since then," Maddon said. "He's been abnormally quiet, so I know he's not pleased."

Shields said he threw a good bullpen session a few days ago and has things ironed out. He has had success against the Jays, including throwing one of his seven complete games, a shutout in Toronto on April 24.

And with the Rays having an uphill climb to make the postseason, Shields said it's up to him and the rest of the rotation to get them going.

"We definitely need to put some winning streaks together," Shields said. "I think our starting staff needs to set the tone as far as that goes, give us a chance to win every single night, and those streaks will come."

LONG BALL: LHP David Price, who has been given just one run of support over his past three starts, acknowledges it's "tough to win" but isn't frustrated with the hitters, who he said "are trying," and isn't putting extra pressure on himself. What bothers him more is the fact that he has allowed eight homers over his past six starts. "I can't keep the ball in the yard right now," Price said. "And it's frustrating."

WAITING GAME: When C John Jaso went on the disabled list July 15 with a right oblique strain, he was hoping it'd be close to a minimum two-week stay. But Jaso acknowledged he's likely still at least a couple weeks away from returning, having felt uncomfortable during a live batting practice session last week.

Maddon said Jaso will start hitting again by the end of the week, when they'll re-evaluate.

"It's taken longer than originally expected," Jaso said. "I thought it was a little more minor than it's turning out to be. I'm feeling it less and less, the sharp pains really aren't there anymore, there's just a stretching thing that needs to happen."

Jaso said he rested for three days after his side hurt during the live BP session, but he hit off a tee Tuesday and hopes to try live BP again today.

CRUZ CONTROL: Maddon said RHP Juan Cruz (groin strain), activated from the disabled list Tuesday, would return to his regular role in the bullpen, though they'll monitor how many days in a row he works for a while. He entered Tuesday's game with two outs in the seventh and struck out both batters he faced, saying he felt good.

"It's good to have him back, too, he was a big part of what we were doing," Maddon said. "We kind of missed his role. (He) definitely makes our bullpen thicker."

With RHP Mike Ekstrom optioned to Triple-A Durham, RHP Brandon Gomes will serve as long reliever. Maddon said they haven't talked about going back to a seven-man bullpen, but they could eventually, either going back to a five-man rotation or losing a position player.

MISCELLANY: Ben Zobrist went 0-2 with two walks, snapping his 11-game hitting streak. … Bullpen coach Bobby Ramos, who missed the recent 10-game road trip due to a throat problem, returned to his role. … The Rays signed their eighth-round pick, 1B John Alexander from Glendora High (Calif.), to a $325,000 bonus. They have signed 15 of their top 21 picks. … Durham earned its 6,000th win with an 18-3 rout of Charlotte. LHP Matt Moore struck out nine in five shutout innings. … Thursday's Joe Maddon's Summer Social is sold out.

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher James Shields eager to make up for season's worst start 08/02/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 11:53pm]
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