For the first time, James Shields will face the Rays as an opposing player. It’s a moment that has been inevitable since the moment the Rays executed the trade sending Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City for a group of prospects headlined by Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi, but now it’s finally starting to sink in that Shields is no longer in a Rays uniform. The Rays’ starting staff hasn’t missed Shields, with Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, and Jeremy Hellickson all taking huge steps forward in their development to cancel out his lost, but it’s going to be seeing all the subtleties that’s going to make Rays fans wonder how in the world the Rays let him go. It’s going to be disheartening to see Shields joking around in the dugout with teammates that aren’t Rays–but just think about the plight of Rays hitters who have to face him.
“It will be weird,” Ben Zobrist said. “I’ve always thought as I watched him pitch and the ball goes every which way, boy that would not be fun to face. Now I’ll have to face him. I don’t anticipate it being fun. You’re seeing the cutter and the sinker and the change-up that everyone else is swinging through for years, and you’re thinking, ‘Why is everyone missing it?’ OK, now we’re going to find out.”
For Shields, though, it won’t be the hitters digging in against him who are really going to throw him off. Instead, it will be seeing the pitchers that he created a deep friendship with over his years as the anchors of the Rays staff.
And Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore and Cobb, who starts tonight for the Rays.
“Seeing those guys in the other dugout is going to be stranger than facing the (Rays lineup),” Shields said.
Could the Rays use Price to get in Shields’ head? After Price’s success in batting practice the other day, could the Rays put him in the lineup? No chance. But you have to expect that there will be some good-natured trash talk between Shields and Price, in it should be a lot of fun for everyone involved.
The pitcher who will be taking on Shields on Tuesday will be Alex Cobb. Cobb has prompted Shields comparisons with his durability, great changeup (in Cobb’s case, a split-change), and especially now, his curveball. Cobb is honored to go up against Shields and draw those parallels.
“If you can have that reputation that he has,” Cobb said, “that’s an awesome thing to have.”
Cobb has been even better than Shields to begin the season, going 3-1 with a 1.82 ERA while Shields is 1-2 with a 3.09 ERA. Will that trend persist? We’ll just have to watch the game and see what happens, but we can say with certainty that it’s quite a matchup and looks to be quite a game. Will the Rays show that they’re just fine without Shields or with Shields leave the Rays feeling nostalgic and wondering how they let him go?