RHP James Shields makes his 33rd and final start of the regular season tonight, and, possibly, his final start with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Shields is due $9 million next season (with a $1.5 million buyout), and given the team's payroll constraints plus its need to upgrade at several positions, Shields' name will be mentioned often this offseason in trade rumors.
"I hope not," Shields said of the prospect of being traded. "I want to be here, but this is baseball. There's a lot of business aspects of the game. Like I said last year, you never know what's going to happen. Everyone thought I was going to get traded last offseason because of the year I had and (GM) Andrew (Friedman) kept me around, but we got guys like (CF B.J. Upton) and a couple of other guys who might not be here next year. These last few days, we're going to enjoy the moment right now and see what happens."
If this is the final game of his Rays career, Shields will leave quite a legacy. He has started at least 33 games every season since 2008 (he started 21 in '07) and is credited with helping to transform the rotation into what it is today.
"James' work ethic will always exceed everybody else's," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's been the guy who has set the tone for the entire group about how to go about your business."
Shields prides himself on his dependability. His goal, aside from a victory, is to pitch at least seven innings tonight. That would give him 2252/3 for the year.
"That's what I pride myself in, going deep in games and being that workhorse," Shields said.
A win would be his 16th, matching his career high set in 2011. He reached 15 by winning seven of his past 11 starts, a stretch that began after the July 31 trade deadline passed.
"He had a tough start coming off a great year and he made some nice adjustments during the course of the season," Maddon said. "He wasn't hardheaded. He didn't fight making some adjustments, and he did.
"He's pitching great right now. His last two months he's been outstanding."
Double-dip for Price
LHP David Price, who won his 20th game Sunday, can become the sixth pitcher in the past 20 seasons to win 20 games and lead the major leagues in ERA. Price's ERA is 2.56. Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers has a 2.58 ERA and could make one more start.
Four of those five pitchers won Cy Young Awards, including Kershaw in 2011.
Better than before
Although the Rays did not achieve their goal of playing in the postseason, they did achieve the goal of playing meaningful games during the final days of the regular season.
"Listen, I hope it's not lost on most everybody in the area, because when we came in here in 2006 it was entirely different. We're just trying to not lose 100 games for a couple of years," Maddon said. "I do remember everyone talking about it at that time, if you can play meaningful games in September that a lot of people will be satisfied."
The Rays have finished with a winning record every season since 2008, won two division titles, one wild card and reached the World Series in 2008.
"I think if you ask a lot of other teams and organizations now, some of the ones who are ascending who they used as their model, I think a lot of them are going to point to our group of guys and how they play," Maddon said. "I'm really proud of that and I want to believe the people of the Tampa Bay area, the true sports fans, understand that, too."
Maddon said RHP Jeremy Hellickson will start Wednesday. … With the Rays eliminated, Maddon said he might rest some of the regulars, namely 3B Evan Longoria. … RHP Jeff Niemann hascontinued his rehab from an inflamed rotator cuff as if he needed to pitch in the postseason.