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Former Rays' star Shields gets best of old team

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Published:   |   Updated: May 1, 2013 at 10:50 AM

KANSAS CITY - The bulldog James Shields, the one who stalked the clubhouse on the days he pitched with a laser-like focus and a leave-me-alone attitude, was nowhere to be found late Tuesday afternoon when he met David Price outside the visiting clubhouse underneath Kauffman Stadium.

They two chums talked about golf, made plans for an offseason visit and laughed it up for about 15 minutes.

Then Shields returned to the home Kansas City Royals clubhouse. He emerged 90 minutes wearing a different shade of blue but looking very much like the bulldog he was when he pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays all those years.

Shields overcame a rough first inning to lead his new team to an 8-2 victory.

“That's a team that knows me really well,” Shields said. “It was a tough night.”

The loss snapped the Rays' modest two-game winning streak and prevented them from reaching .500 for the season. It also dropped them to 4-10 on the road, including 2-3 in through the first half of this 10-game road trip.

Though he left the Rays on good terms last December in a blockbuster trade, Shields said he wanted to beat his old team.

“It definitely gives me a lot of satisfaction,” he said. “There's a good saying: Take them out to dinner afterwards.”

Through nearly six innings it looked as if the Rays would get the best of Shields. It looked like many of those nights at Tropicana Field when Shields pitched well enough to win but the offense was a no-show.

Facing his old team for the first time this season, the first time since the December trade that sent he, Wade Davis and Elliot Johnson to the Royals for four prospects, including outfielder Wil Myers, the consensus 2012 minor league player of the year, Shields fell behind early.

Desmond Jennings singled off the glove of Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar. Matt Joyce followed with a home run to right field. It was Joyce's third home run in four games and it extended the Rays streak of consecutive games with a home to 15, tying the 2009 Rays for the team record.

A one-out walk to Evan Longoria and a double by James Loney put runners on second and third. But Shields ended the threat when he struck out Yunel Escobar, returning after missing four games with tightness in his right hamstring, and Jose Molina.

“That did concern me,” Rays manager Joe Maddon.

Maddon had seen this movie plenty of times. Shields gets hit around early, survives and ends up with a victory.

“He knows how to settle down,” Maddon said.

Alex Cobb was solid through five innings. He held the Royals to just four hits and retired nine straight at one point.

But the game flipped during a nine-pitch sequence in the sixth inning in which the Royals scored four times in five hits all with two out. The biggest hit was a two-run homer by Mike Moustakas that put the Royals ahead 3-2.

Shields went out in the seventh inning and retired the Rays in order. At that point Shields had retired 13 straight.

“Seen it before,” Maddon said.

Those would be the final 13 batters he faced. He left the game after the Royals took advantage of some sloppy defense to score three more times in the bottom of the seventh.

“That's just James Shields,” David Price said.

Shields, who evened his record at 2-2, said he wasn't over-amped in the first inning despite facing his old teammates, many of whom her referred to as “brothers.”

“It was a little weird,” he said. “But once they stepped in the box it was game on.”

And once Shields got through the first inning, it was up to Cobb to make the two-run lead stand because Shields was vintage Shields.

“Down 2-0 in the first inning I knew I had to grind it out,” Shields said.

And down 2-0 in the first inning, Shields said he wasn'st worried.

“I guys had my back,” he said. “They always do. They're real resilient.”
 
Escobar returns:  Escobar played his first game since leaving a game April 24 with tightness in his right hamstring. Maddon said he had received an email Tuesday morning from the Rays' training staff in which Escobar was quoted as saying he felt “200 percent.”



“I'm good with 200 percent,” Maddon said. “I'd much prefer that over 110 percent.”



Scott back, Duncan out: As expected, Rays DH Luke Scott (right calf strain) was activated from the disabled list. To make room, DH/1B Shelley Duncan was designated for assignment.



“There really wasn't any other choice at this time,” Maddon said.



Maddon said Scott will serve primarily as the DH, but he will try to get him some time in the field at first base or in the outfield. Maddon also said he is not afraid to use Scott in the field this weekend in Colorado if the need for a double-switch arises.



Reaction to Jason Collins: OF Sam Fuld said it was courageous for former Washington Wizards center Jason Collins to reveal he is gay.



“I think it's a big deal. But I think we'll probably see a snowball effect within a year where it probably won't be a big deal,” said Fuld, who was a freshman at Stanford when Collins was a senior.



Both Maddon and Fuld said an openly gay player would encounter little or no resistance in the Rays' clubhouse.



“It's going to be a non-issue in almost every locker room,” Maddon said. “There are going to be one or two guys who might make a stink about it, maybe. But I think overall it's going to be a non-issue as more people reveal themselves. I would want to believe within our locker room it would not make any difference whatsoever.”



rmooney@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7227

Twitter: @RMooneyTBO

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