GLENDALE, Ariz. — James Shields wants to move on from last year's nightmare season and he's excited to do so for the rebuilding White Sox.
During his career, Shields has pitched for several rebuilding clubs and has discovered that he likes to provide an example for his younger teammates. The veteran — who has pitched more innings than any other starter in baseball since 2007 — has no issues if the White Sox ask the same of him this season. Many of those teammates would be better served if they kept a close eye on how Shields conducted himself during a trying 2016 campaign.
Shields, who was traded to the White Sox in June, finished with 19 losses, 40 home runs allowed and a 5.85 ERA. He went 4-12 with a 6.77 ERA in 114 1/3 innings for the White Sox.
"I wish it could have been better," Shields said. "There's no doubt about it. I'm a competitor and I don't like to lose and I don't like to get hit around like that. Shocking factor? Not really. Sometimes those things happen, but unfortunately it happened too often. But this season I'm feeling good. I've got a lot of confidence right now in my ability and what I did this offseason and I'm going to carry it on."
Shields was acquired from the San Diego Padres on June 4. Not only was he brought in to boost a sagging White Sox rotation, there was hope he could be one of the final pieces of the puzzle to help them reach the postseason for the first time since 2008.
But fresh off a public lambasting by the Padres' Ron Fowler — one of two shots the chairman took at him during the season — Shields struggled. He allowed 21 runs in 8 2/3 innings in his first three starts with the White Sox.
Pitching coach Don Cooper thinks all of those factors resulted in Shields getting away from the pitcher who has led all of baseball with 2,169 2/3 innings since 2007. Cooper also thinks Shields still has the stuff to rebound in 2017.
"He was traded midseason, trade deadline, after getting hammered by the owner out there," Cooper said. "It couldn't have been a great situation. He comes to a new team, with us, trying to impress, trying to really want to jump in there and help, tried to do a lot more than he was capable of doing. He wasn't there. It didn't turn out the way he wanted it to.
"He still has everything he needs stuff-wise to get people out. He has movement. He has a great changeup. He commands that fastball. We're hoping for a whole lot better for sure. And I'm sure he is, too."
Shields certainly arrived in camp in the right frame of mind. Having played for the Tampa Bay Rays for the first seven seasons of his career, Shields isn't one to shy away from a potential rebuild. He likes showing younger pitchers how to handle themselves over the course of a major league season and sees a lot of potential in the prospects the White Sox acquired.
"I'm smiling because I've been a part of rebuilds quite a bit," Shields said. "So for me, I love it. I absolutely love it. I love having the young kids, being a veteran, being a leader on the team and showing these guys what professional baseball is all about. I've been very successful with the teams I've been on with the rebuilds. We've got a good group of guys. Lot of young talent, lot of good talent and I'm excited to see these guys.”