Sunday, February 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays starter James Shields responds to "playoff atmosphere" against New York Yankees

ST. PETERSBURG — The thought of playing a 1:10 p.m. game Monday after flying back from Toronto Sunday night did not sound particularly appealing to the Rays. But once RHP James Shields took the mound, he liked everything he heard.

"It felt like a playoff atmosphere," he said. "We had the crowd, that was amazing. How many showed up (28,585), that was awesome. That kind of got me going early in the game."

Shields (13-8, 3.88) started well, navigated a bit of a bad-bounce fourth in giving up three runs and the lead then finished strong. He had thrown 100 pitches when Maddon let him go back out for the eighth — "I was kinda hoping," Shields said — and got to stay after a 10-pitch battle with Derek Jeter that ended in a walk and finish the inning, with help from a double play.

The 121 pitches where the second most Shields has thrown this season, but Maddon was willing to let him go even further. "I just thought he had plenty left in the tank," Maddon said.

NIEMANN OUT INDEFINITELY: RHP Jeff Niemann is sidelined indefinitely, and possibly the rest of the season, after a exam by Dr. Koco Eaton found slight inflammation in his rotator cuff.

Niemann, who came back Saturday after missing 3 ½ months after breaking his right leg, said his shoulder was still sore, but he is trying to remain optimistic that he can return. Maddon said it was "unclear" if he can.

"We're just going to take a few days and see where we go from there," Niemann said. "It's definitely frustrating to do as much as we've done and have gone through as much as we've gone through already this season, to have something like this happen at a very inopportune time for the team. … It's not fun."

LONGORIA OKAY: There was justifiable concern when 3B Evan Longoria left the game after seven innings with the score tied, then the dugout.

But Longoria said he was fine and there were no issues besides "a little fatigue" with his left hamstring, which sidelined him for more than three months. His early exit was mutually agreed upon with manager Joe Maddon and he'll be in the lineup tonight.

"Just kind of a long day traveling (Sunday), and it was just the right thing to do," Longoria said.

FERNANDO MANIA: RHP Fernando Rodney's 41st save was a bit dramatic, as a throwing error by 3B Elliot Johnson helped the Yankees get the tying run to third. But Rodney struck out Curtis Granderson, matching Baltimore's Jim Johnson for the major-league lead.

ROSTER MOVEMENT: C/OF/1B Stephen Vogt and RHP Dane De La Rosa are expected to be called up, with Triple-A Durham ending its season, and join the Rays on Wednesday. One other callup — perhaps RHP Chris Archer — is possible. … INF Will Rhymes and RHP Albert Suarez, designated for assignment last week to clear 40-man roster space, cleared waivers and remained in the organization.

MISCELLANY: The Rays won the third one-run game in their past 14. … For the second straight day, all nine Rays starters got a hit. … INF Sean Rodriguez, sidelined after fracturing his right hand punching a locker at Durham on Aug. 26, is confident of returning before season's end. "Good chance I'll be back, it's just a matter of when," he said. … C Robinson Chirinos, sidelined since a spring training concussion, was happy just to be in the clubhouse, planning to work out a bit with the Rays this week then join the instructional league team next week. … Maddon was ejected for the third time this season, 26th as a Ray. … The Yankees activated Alex Rodriguez off the DL.

Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.

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