SURPRISE, Ariz. - When the Royals traded for James Shields, they were acquiring both a thoroughbred and a workhorse. Big Game James has pitched at least 200 innings in six straight seasons. The Royals are banking that Shields has plenty of bullets left in the chamber.
"I feel great. I feel I am as good as I have ever been so far, body-wise. So, I have no concerns," Shields said.
The Royals need Shields on the mound. Manager Ned Yost is counting on the 31-year-old to be the leader of this revamped rotation.
"After we made the trade, it was amazing to listen to some of the interviews from the Tampa Bay guys, from David Price and Evan Longoria on how he taught them how to be leaders," Yost said.
Shields' career 3.89 ERA will be a boost to the Royals every five days. It's what he does on those other days that could determine if the team can jump from 72 wins to playoff contention.
"It's not a matter of being a leader or being the guy or whatever. It's a matter of getting everyone together on the same page and really feeding off each other," he said. "One starter is not going to take you to the championship. It takes all five starters to really get us there."
Shields and his new rotation mates have a lot of work to do. The starting rotation for the Royals last season posted a 5.01 ERA. That ranked 26th in Major League Baseball.