CHICAGO — White Sox right-hander James Shields vowed Tuesday to stay in the rotation despite back pain and asked for patience from fans amid the worst season of his career.
A day after Chicago manager Robin Ventura suggested Shields could be shut down, the 11-year veteran said a doctor’s visit produced good news.
“Knock on wood, I haven’t missed a start my whole career and I don’t really plan on it, either,” Shields said. “It’s one of those things where I’m pretty sure I’ll be out there on Saturday.”
Shields struggled early in the season with San Diego, even allowing hefty New York Mets pitcher Barolo Colon’s first home run in May. He faced public criticism from Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler, then was dealt to the White Sox on June 5.
Besides a six-start stretch in July when he had 1.71 ERA, Shields has been hit hard. He’s 3-10 with a 7.50 ERA in 17 starts with Chicago. He said he’s had off-and-on back pain.
“It’s been a crazy year, man,” Shields said. “A lot of things going on. Obviously I got traded. Things that happened in San Diego that weren’t under my control. Come in here to a new team, probably out of the gates tried to do too much, then settled in and then didn’t do to well.”
Shields was an All-Star with Tampa Bay in 2011 and helped Kansas City reach the World Series in 2014. His nine straight 200-inning seasons make the longest active streak in the majors.
“I know he’s always taken the ball,” Ventura said. “If he’s feeling healthy he’s going to go back out there and pitch.”
The 34-year-old takes pride in his uniquely heavy workload at a time when other pitchers are doing less in an effort to stay healthy and effective.
“Some years you have a really good feel for the baseball and some years you don’t,” Shields said. “Unfortunately this year I haven’t felt it like I wanted to. I’ve been a bulldog my whole career and I’m going to assess things this offseason and hopefully finish strong.”
Shields, a combined 5-17 with a 6.05 ERA with the Padres and White Sox, is in danger of a 20-loss season if he stays in the rotation.
He can opt out of his contract after this season, but almost certainly won’t. He’s due $21 million in each of the next two years.
“I love it here. If there is any city my wife wanted me to go to it was Chicago for sure,” Shields said. “Hopefully the fans will stick with me a little bit, believe in me and we can get better next year.”