10/29/2003 2:46 PM ET
Notes: Shields set for the future
Pitcher says he won't mind starting or relieving
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Scot Shields could figure into the Angels' 2004 rotation plans. (Kevork Djansezian/AP)
Scot Shields likes to tell a story about how he threw 267 pitches in a college game and actually took the loss when his team coughed it up in the 16th inning.
The purpose of the story is to illustrate that his arm is "rubber" enough to handle any type of role and to bounce back quickly. Angels fans who have been watching him surge into prominence over the last two years know all about that.
Shields, 28, pitched 49 innings of relief in 2002 and threw over 149 innings in 2003 as a long reliever and then a starter. He has a combined Major League ERA of 2.55 and looked his best in his last three starts.
Shields was entrusted with the final spot in Anaheim's starting rotation in late July when the club decided to release veteran right-hander Kevin Appier. Shields earned the spot by pitching so effectively in long relief and by impressing Angels brass when he got the ball in a few spot starts.
Scot Shields / P
"He's shown us he can do both," general manager Bill Stoneman said. "His arm's so resilient that it's easy for him to pitch out of the 'pen. He did well when we put him in the rotation for the most part, particularly the end of the season, when he gave us three straight starts that were very good."
Those three starts solidified what the team expected of Shields when it gave him the promotion over Appier. Those outings also made the Angels forget a string of efforts in August and early September when Shields went through a self-described "dead-arm" period.
After five so-so starts, Shields pitched eight innings of four-hit, two-run ball and watched as Oakland A's lefty Barry Zito confounded the Angels with 8 1/3 two-hit, shutout frames of his own in a 2-0 A's win Sept. 17.
On Sept. 23, he threw eight innings of scoreless ball against Seattle, scattering three hits while striking out a career-high nine and walking two. He threw 110 pitches, 75 for strikes, and left the game in position to win with a 1-0 lead.
And in the Angels' last game of the season Sept. 28, Shields stepped in for Jarrod Washburn, who had an ankle injury, and shined again, beating Texas with seven innings of five-hit, one-run ball.
"In Scot's last three outings, he's really pitched," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He used his breaking ball, he hit spots with his fastball and he changed speeds. He's pitched terrific ballgames."
But will it be enough to crack the starting rotation in 2004? That's the big question. Especially since Stoneman said in early September that the Angels' No. 1 offseason priority would be to acquire a starting pitcher, and with Jarrod Washburn, John Lackey, Ramon Ortiz and Aaron Sele pretty much set in the rotation next year, that might leave Shields as the long reliever again.
As far as Shields is concerned, it's not a big deal.
"If they don't go out and get somebody or if things fall through, I'll be happy to start," he said. "If they want me in the 'pen, I'll pitch in the 'pen. I think about now -- not five or seven years down the road. It's still not a bad living pitching out of the bullpen."
Stoneman said there's still a possibility that Shields could make the cut as a starter.
"He's a candidate to do either of those jobs," Stoneman said. "That'll be up to (manager) Mike (Scioscia) and (pitching coach) Buddy (Black). My only preference is that he's on our staff."
And according to Shields, that's all he needed to hear.
"Just to have a job in the Major Leagues is pretty special," Shields said. "I have to be happy about that."
We either make ourselves happy or miserable.
The amount of work is the same.