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News » Shields to start opener for AL champion Rays

Shields to start opener for AL champion Rays

Shields to start opener for AL champion Rays
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) - Rays manager Joe Maddon didn't wait to watch Tampa Bay's best pitchers in spring training. He picked right-hander James Shields on Wednesday as the team's opening-day starter.

"Any one of the five starters could be No. 1. It's a tough decision for the guys up top," Shields said before the defending AL champions played Puerto Rico's World Baseball Classic team in an exhibition game. "I'm pretty honored."

Shields was a 14-game winner last season, when he also was the opening-day starter.

But unlike a year ago, when All-Star left-hander Scott Kazmir was injured during spring training and began the season on the disabled list, Maddon said Shields earned the nod this time because of his performance.

The Rays are scheduled to open at Boston on April 6, with Kazmir, Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine following Shields in the rotation. The fifth spot is still up for grabs, with David Price, Jeff Niemann, Mitch Talbot and Jason Hammel in the running.

"I think, more than anything, we like the idea of Kaz pitching between Shields and Garza. You look at any one of those three guys, we're at the point now where we have three guys who can open up for us at any given time," Maddon said.

"Choosing one, based on the body of work Shieldsie has done, we chose to go with him first. But we're just trying to balance this out to what makes most sense for us."

With spring training beginning a week early because of the World Baseball Classic, none of Tampa Bay's top pitchers have appeared in an exhibition game. Shields is slated to make his first appearance on Saturday, while Kazmir is expected to pitch Monday.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: March 5, 2009

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