DETROIT — Longtime Rays ace RHP James Shields is eagerly looking forward to coming back and pitching at the Trop tonight for the first time since being traded to the Royals after the 2012 season.
"I'm very excited," he said. "And ready to go."
The Rays are starting RHP Jake Odorizzi, one of the four players, along with now-injured OF Wil Myers, acquired in the deal that also sent RHP Wade Davis to Kansas City, which makes tonight's matchup even more interesting.
Except to Odorizzi.
"It doesn't do anything for me, I'm not facing him," Odorizzi said. "So it is what it is. I guess it will be a good story line."
Shields beat the Rays in Kansas City on April 30, 2013. But his turn, improbably, didn't come up during a four-game visit to the Trop last June.
He acknowledged "it's definitely going to feel a little weird" to step back on the mound where he was 47-31, 3.34 in 110 starts and earned the only World Series win in franchise history.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said Shields deserves a warm welcome back from the Trop fans.
"He should get a nice ovation from the crowd for all the great work he's done there in the past," Maddon said. "He helped us become the Rays. He helped big-time in the transformation. Not only what he did on the field, but what he did among the young pitchers.
"He was a great leader for the pitching staff as an example setter and then how he pitched — not fabricating, kind of a tough guy out there."
Odorizzi's view of the matchup also may be dulled because he has faced the Royals twice before, going 0-1, 9.72, and was in their system for only two years, having been acquired from the Brewers.
HELLICKSON ON TUESDAY: RHP Jeremy Hellickson will be activated off the disabled list and rejoin the rotation Tuesday, replacing LHP Erik Bedard.
Hellickson made six rehab starts in working his way back from January elbow surgery, and his 30-day rehab assignment expired Sunday. The Rays could have optioned him to the minors if they felt he needed more work, but decided, as Maddon said, he was "ready to go.''
Bedard, who was scheduled to start Tuesday after lasting only two innings in his last outing, will head to the bullpen as the Rays will carry an extra pitcher, with INF Vince Belnome optioned to Triple-A Durham after Sunday's game.
Tripping: The 9-2 mark on the trip to Baltimore, New York and Detroit matched the Rays most wins on a trip, and was their third-best record, having gone 9-1 to Baltimore, Boston and Chicago in 2010, and 8-1 to San Diego, Arizona and Toronto in 2004. It also was only the second trip in which they won three series against teams over .500, having done so in 2012 at Baltimore, Anaheim and Oakland, going 6-3.
REHAB REPORT: SS Yunel Escobar (sore right shoulder) is set to begin a planned three-game rehab assignment today with the Gulf Coast League team in Port Charlotte, then play for the advanced Class A Stone Crabs on Tuesday and Wednesday.
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HAPPY BIRTH DAY: LHP Cesar Ramos is set to rejoin the bullpen tonight after he and wife Melanie welcomed their first child Saturday, a 6-pound, 15-ounce girl they named Addison Lynn. LHP Jeff Beliveau, who was filling in while Ramos was on the three-day paternity leave, was optioned back to Durham.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: SS Adrian Rondon is set to get a heck of a 16th birthday present today, with an announcement expected at the Rays' Dominican Republic academy that the top international prospect has been signed for a reported $3.3 million bonus.
SEEING TRIPLE: OF Kevin Kiermaier on Saturday became the sixth Ray to have two triples in the same game, though the first to do so in consecutive innings. The others: Carl Crawford (seven times), Jose Guillen, Matt Joyce, (current bench coach) Dave Martinez and Randy Winn.
MISCELLANY: Rays LHP David Price went at least eight innings for the fifth time in his past six starts. It also was his 15th straight outing of at least 100 pitches, the longest such active streak in the majors. … Price also allowed two more home runs and has given up an AL-high 19 this season. … Six Rays had multi-hit games, matching a season high. ... LF Matt Joyce was awarded a first-inning homer after a 45-second crew chief ordered review of the replay showed it cleared the rightfield wall. ... The Rays will skip batting practice and have a late 5 p.m. report time today after what was expected to be a post 4 a.m. arrival from Detroit. … Seminole medicine man Bobby Henry is expected to be back at the Trop today; the Rays won 16 of 26 games after his first visit.