The right-hander is helping the Kansas City Royals ' staff get off to a good one in 2013.
Shields faces his former Rays teammates for the first time in Tuesday night's series opener at Kauffman Stadium.
Drafted by the Rays out of high school in 2000, Shields (1-2, 3.09 ERA) came up through the organization and went 87-73 with a 3.89 ERA in seven seasons. An All-Star in 2011 when he finished third in the AL Cy Young voting, the right-hander is the Rays' all-time leader in wins, games started (217), complete games (19), innings (1,454 2-3) and strikeouts (1,250).
Shields, though, now wears a Royals uniform after coming over with Wade Davis and shortstop Elliot Johnson in the December deal that Kansas City (13-10) made to bolster a staff that was 12th in the AL last season with a 5.01 ERA. That group has a 3.64 ERA this year despite a second consecutive rough outing from Davis in Monday's 9-0 loss to Cleveland.
Davis hopes to face the Rays (12-13) when the Royals play in St. Petersburg in June, but Shields gets his chance on Tuesday.
"It's kind of understandable that it's going to feel a little different," he told MLB.com. "It'll be exciting. It'll be fun."
It would be an even more enjoyable experience for Shields if he's on his game. The right-hander was unhittable to end his last outing, retiring the last 10 he faced in Thursday's 8-3, 10-inning victory at Detroit.
"The deeper he gets in those situations, the tougher he gets," manager Ned Yost told the Royals' official website.
Rays designated hitter Luke Scott has been a tough out for Shields, going 12 for 37 with a homer and four doubles, and he could make his season debut on Tuesday. He's been out with a strained right calf.
Scheduled starter Alex Cobb (3-1, 1.82) could be throwing to Jose Molina , who missed Sunday's 8-3 road win over the Chicago White Sox after getting hit above the knee by a pitch in the previous game.
Cobb will try to match a career high by winning a third consecutive start after striking out a season-best seven and finishing two outs shy of a complete game in Wednesday's 3-0 victory over the New York Yankees .
"I knew throwing out my first bullpen (session) that I was going to have good fastball location," Cobb told the Rays' official website. "… When you have that mindset going into the first couple of innings, you get in kind of a groove and things just start to work out for you."
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 4.80 ERA in two starts against the Royals, both in Kansas City.
Cobb will face a Kansas City team that just fell out of the AL Central lead with its second straight loss.
"We had an off-day," said third baseman Mike Moustakas , who had one of the team's season-low three hits.
Alex Gordon went 0 for 4 for a second straight game and Alcides Escobar 's team-best nine-game hitting streak ended. However, the Royals' 1-2 hitters were a combined 17 for 43 (.395) with seven extra-base hits off Rays pitching - including 6 for 7 off Cobb - last season to help Kansas City win four of six matchups, including all three at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals have won seven of 10 at home in this series.
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|April 27, 2013||Jose Molina||Day-to-Day||Knee|
|April 25, 2013||Yunel Escobar||Day-to-Day||Hamstring|
|March 31, 2013||Juan Carlos Oviedo||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 28, 2013||Jeff Niemann||60-Day DL||Right shoulder surgery - out for season|
|March 24, 2013||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Strained right calf|
|Kansas City Royals|
|March 31, 2013||Danny Duffy||15-Day DL||Recovery from left elbow surgery|
|February 12, 2013||Felipe Paulino||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- James Shields admitted that it felt a little weird when he stepped on the mound for Kansas City on Tuesday night, peered into the batter's box and saw a former Rays teammate standing at the plate.
"That's a team over that knows me real well," Shields said.
Turns out Shields knows them even better.
After allowing a two-run homer to Matt Joyce in the first, Shields only allowed three more hits over the next six innings. That kept the Royals in the game long enough for Mike Moustakas to hit a go-ahead two-run homer and spur Kansas City to an 8-2 victory over Tampa Bay in the series opener.
"It was pretty obvious the emotion was really, really high," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "James has really bonded with his teammates, and I think his teammates knew how big of a game it was for him."
Kansas City has been looking for a legitimate No. 1 starter for years, and finally made the bold decision in December to acquire Shields and fellow right-hander Wade Davis from Tampa Bay for a package of prospects that included minor league player of the year Wil Myers .
The Rays' career leader in just about every significant pitching category, Shields (2-2) hasn't done anything to disappoint his new organization. He lost 1-0 to the White Sox on opening day, tossed a complete game in a 3-2 loss to Toronto, and has gone at least six innings in every start.
On Tuesday night, he helped the Royals snap a two-game skid and finish 14-10 in April, a dramatic improvement from the 6-15 mark that they carried into May a year ago.
"He looked a little different standing out there in a different uniform," said the Rays' Desmond Jennings . "He was mixing up his pitches - he was Shields. He's good, man."
Early on, Shields may have been too amped up facing his former team.
Jennings singled off his first pitch and Joyce followed with his homer over the right-field wall. It was the 15th straight game in which Tampa Bay hit a home run, tying the franchise record.
"The first hit of the game, a little check-swing by Des, and I fell behind the count against Joyce, and you can't do that," Shields said. "I knew I had to grind it out."
Meanwhile, Alex Cobb (3-2) was keeping the Royals' scuffling offense at bay.
The Rays' starter allowed just four hits over the first five innings, and at one point, the only ball hit out of the infield over a span of 12 batters was a measly single by Elliott Johnson.
"He threw the ball great for them, mixing his pitches," Moustakas said. "One inning, you know, kind of turned the game around for us."
That inning came in the sixth.
Cobb had retired the first two batters Eric Hosmer doubled and Lorenzo Cain drove him in with a single, snapping the Royals' streak of 15 consecutive scoreless innings.
Moustakas then connected against Cobb over the right-field fence for his first homer since Sept. 14, a span of 129 at-bats. Jeff Francoeur followed with a double and Salvador Perez 's RBI single made it 4-2. Cobb was lifted when Johnson singled again, ending his night after 5 2-3 innings.
"When I walked off the mound, I think that was the most angry I've ever been after a game," said Cobb, who pitched into the ninth inning against the Yankees his last time out. "I felt like from pitch number-one, I was going to have a smooth, easy-sailing game and go as deep as I could."
Cobb wound up allowing four runs on 10 hits.
"It fell apart very quickly and that was unusual to see," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Shields was really good. Cobb was outstanding to that moment."
The Royals built a cushion in the seventh off Rays reliever Brandon Gomes . Moustakas hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded, and Hosmer scored from third when Cain stole second and catcher Jose Molina threw the ball into center field.
Francoeur followed with an RBI triple, giving the Royals a 7-2 lead and Shields the rest of the night off. The Kansas City bullpen pitched two scoreless innings to finish things up.
"The guys had my back - they always do - and that's what this team is all about," Shields said. "We're real resilient. We had a couple of tough losses, but we fought back hard tonight. We have a lot of character on this team and we showed it again tonight."
NOTES: RHP Jeremy Hellickson starts Wednesday night for Tampa Bay. RHP Luis Mendoza takes the mound for Kansas City. ... The Rays activated Luke Scott (right calf strain) from the DL and designated DH Shelley Duncan for assignment. Scott went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.