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Tampa Bay Rays pitcher James Shields seeks to pick up where he left off

ST. PETERSBURG — RHP James Shields will have a tough time topping his last start against the Red Sox, a complete-game shutout June 14, when he faces them today.

But as is the case with Shields' first half of the season, in which he threw seven complete games and made his first All-Star team, he doesn't believe he needs to change much.

"I'm going to try to build on what's going on," Shields said. "We're going to try to start this second off right, and there's no better way to start the second half than playing the guys you're trying to beat."

Though Shields didn't pitch in the All-Star Game, he said the experience was "everything I thought it was going to be," a fun time, even with two-time All-Star LHP David Price "showing me the ropes."

Shields said he joked with Tigers RHP Justin Verlander about how they kept up with each other when both threw complete games June 14 and June 19.

"It was kind of funny that every time I pitched, he'd be looking at what I did, and every time he pitched, I'd be looking at what he was doing," Shields said. "It was kind of a friendly competition away from each other."

MUM'S THE WORD: C John Jaso said the strained right oblique that landed him on the 15-day disabled list had bothered him since the Twins series July 4-6, but he didn't tell anybody until after the game July 9 in New York because he knew he'd face a couple of Yankees right-handers.

Jaso hoped if he played through the injury, he could use the All-Star break to heal. But after an exam revealed a mild strain, the Rays put him on the DL, retroactive to Sunday, expecting he can return after a minimum stint.

"I was kind of hoping it'd go away over the games I was playing," Jaso said. "But it didn't and progressively got worse."

Jaso doesn't regret not disclosing the injury sooner, believing it didn't extend the recovery time. But Rays manager Joe Maddon said he, "doesn't want anybody to play hurt."

"I think we caught it at the right time," Maddon said. "But with (Jaso) like that, I'd rather him just be up front and say, 'Listen, I can't really go, and we need to do something about it.' "

LEANING LEFT: LHP Jake McGee, called up Thursday partly to face lefties, said he tweaked some things, including increasing his velocity and improving his slider, during his two-plus months at Triple-A Durham.

McGee said a mechanical adjustment helped him maintain a consistent velocity (93-96 mph) and "got the breaking ball back to where I wanted it to be." He struggled after making his first opening-day roster (5.14 ERA in 11 games) but said he has learned from it and will be more relaxed.

"I was kind of almost putting too much pressure on myself starting the year up here instead of realizing what I have to go out and do," McGee said.

Friday, McGee struck out the only batter he faced, left-handed CF Jacoby Ellsbury.

PITCHING IN: LHP Alex Torres was pulled from his start at Durham after two innings Friday, indicating the Rays could be considering promoting him rather than RHP Alex Cobb to start Monday or Tuesday. Cobb was lifted after two innings Thursday.

In the CLEAR: Domestic violence charges against former Rays RHP Dewon Brazelton were dropped by the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office. Brazelton, 31, was arrested June 3 on suspicion of hitting his fiancee, who declined to give a statement to prosecutors.

MISCELLANY: Bullpen coach Bobby Ramos has a throat infection that could sideline him for up to a week. Stan Boroski, assistant to the pitching coach, is filling in. … DH Johnny Damon and his wife, Michelle, are hosting "Uncork for a Cause," a charity wine tasting event, at 7 tonight at the Vinoy. Proceeds benefit the families of the three St. Petersburg police officers who recently died in the line of duty. For information, go to uncorkforacause.com.

Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher James Shields seeks to pick up where he left off 07/15/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 16, 2011 12:09am]

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