ANAHEIM, Calif. — Tonight is another homecoming for Rays right-hander James Shields, who grew up not too far from Angel Stadium. He likes pitching there despite mixed results in his three previous starts. He'll have enough family and friends on hand for his fourth tonight that he rented a suite so they'd be more comfortable.
But the most important thing on his mind is the bottom line, bouncing back from the worst start in his otherwise splendid season last week in Seattle.
"Obviously after my last game I need to get back in gear here," he said. "I had a really good bullpen session with (pitching coach Jim Hickey) working on some things in there to get my (delivery) line back in order, and I'm feeling good, ready to go."
Shields didn't think his last outing was really that bad, that the difference of making one better pitch, and getting a double-play grounder, could have kept Seattle to one run in the second instead of five and changed the entire outcome.
"I was one pitch away," he said. "Sometimes that happens."
He ended up working only four innings, allowing eight runs (seven earned) including four home runs, as his ERA rose from 2.15 to 2.77.
Shields (5-4 ) had been remarkably consistent in an impressive bounceback season, running off a string of nine quality starts (six or more innings, three or fewer runs) before Thursday's game .
"I definitely want to be back out there, that's for sure," he said. "Anytime you have a rough outing you have five days to thinking about, and this time I had six to think about it."
Shields said he didn't need any major adjustments, he just needed to fine-tune his delivery, which he compacted in spring training and is considered a big reason for his success.
"A better line to home, that's about it," Shields said. "Just staying in my delivery. It's worked out pretty well. I'm just trying to stay consistent."
Manager Joe Maddon said he feels Shields is worthy of a place on the AL All-Star team if he can maintain what he's doing. Shields would very much like the honor for the first time in his career but said he isn't concerning himself with it.
"We've got a little ways to go to the All-Star Game," he said. "I'm not thinking about that, I'm thinking about pitching my next game. … Obviously it's every ballplayer's dream to go play in an All-Star Game. But I'm focused on winning games for my team. That's all I care about."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.