Putting together the Rays All-Time 25th Anniversary squad
Starting Pitcher: No. 33, James Shields
While his peak wasn't quite as memorable as some others on this list, every pitching staff needs a durable anchor to pitch deep into ballgames and show up when it matters. Nicknamed Big Game James by the Tropicana Field faithful, James Shields was among the organization's best. He's atop the franchise leaderboard in strikeouts (1,250) and innings worked (1,454.2), but perhaps most impressively is his franchise-record 19 complete games in an era where complete games are becoming a lost art. For reference, there were only 35 complete games across baseball in the 2022 season. From 2007-2012, Shields hit the 200 inning benchmark every season, averaging 230 innings pitched over the course of a 162-game season.
The season that Shields will be most remembered for in a Rays uniform will be his 2011 season, where he was tabbed an All-Star for the only time in his major league career. That year, the 29-year-old pitched to a 2.82 ERA in 249.1 innings of work, the most innings in a single-season in Rays history. Alongside eventual MVP Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver, Shields was a Cy Young finalist for the first time in his MLB tenure. Shields finished with a 134 ERA+ and 11 complete games, proving that not only did he eat innings, but that the innings were also of a quality variety.
Shields was traded to the Kansas City Royals before the 2014 season alongside Wade Davis, as both became crucial in their run to the World Series during that season, but his Rays tenure was a strong one. During his time with the Rays, he posted a 19.7 bWAR, the second-highest behind Price in Rays history for a pitcher. Though his ERA is only ninth in franchise history, even behind Jake Odorizzi, who came to Tampa Bay in the aforementioned deal with Kansas City, Shields' run of stability has been unparalleled since. His eight complete game shutouts is the best mark in team history.