New Royals pitcher Shields showing leadership early on
BY DAVE SKRETTA Associated Press
Sunday, March 03, 2013
3/03/13 at 6:27 AM
SURPRISE, Ariz. - James Shields didn't have to do it.
He didn't think much of it when he did, either.
But with the simple act of hanging out on the bench to watch Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar take their turn on the mound when he could have been doing anything else, the Royals' new ace sent a message that resounded quite loudly in a young clubhouse starved for winning.
"It showed he's a leader," manager Ned Yost said.
The kind of leader the Royals were hoping he'd be when they acquired Shields and fellow right-hander Wade Davis in a blockbuster deal last December, which sent top prospects Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi along with two other minor leaguers to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Kansas City has retooled its lineup over the past couple years, relying on a farm system that has become one of the best in baseball. But a blight of pitching prospects has prevented the club from taking the final step toward competing for its first division title in nearly 30 years.
That's why general manager Dayton Moore made the bold move to acquire Shields, a former All-Star, even at the cost of losing Myers, the minor-league player of the year last season.
"We've got to redirect the course of this organization," Moore said, "and the only way to do it is if your most talented players, your best players, are the ones who care the most and compete the most. We knew James Shields was going to be our best pitcher, and we need him to be a guy who is going to care and compete."
He showed that he's willing to be that guy last Wednesday against Milwaukee.
When the Royals are playing National League teams, their starting pitchers aren't required to go down and sit on the bench. But when Yost gazed over there before the first pitch, Shields and Davis had already claimed seats to watch Chen and Hochevar make their spring debuts.
"They were the only two starters out here," Yost said. "It's little things like that people don't really think about, but they do."
Shields seemed surprised that anybody would notice where he was sitting on an off day, but the truth is that eyes will be following him everywhere he goes this season.
"I mean, I'm really new here, and those guys pitched and me and Wade wanted to go out and watch them," he said demurely.
Shields finally got his turn on the mound a couple days later, throwing a perfect inning in his spring training debut that was so efficient that he headed out to the bullpen afterward so he could squeeze in a few more pitches.
It was the kind of outing the Royals are hoping for, and fans are expecting, out of someone who earned the nickname "Big Game James" in the minors.
Original Print Headline: New Royals pitcher impressing