Another Opening Day, another start for James Shields. At this point, with six starts under his belt, it has to feel like just a part of his routine as he prepares for the season. Of course, as the ace of both the Kansas City Royals and the Tampa Bay Rays beforehand, such an assignment has to be expected.
Overall in his previous five previous Opening Day starts, Shields has not fared well, with a 1-2 record, a 5.22 ERA and 21 strikeouts over 29.1 innings of work. In fact, his only personal victory came in his first Opening Day start, when he faced off against Jeremy Guthrie, then with the Baltimore Orioles, in 2008. Yet, despite his struggles, his teams have gone 3-2 in games he started to kick off the season.
After falling on the short end of a pitcher’s duel with Chris Sale last year, James Shields has once again drawn a difficult assignment in Justin Verlander. Even though Verlander struggled, by his standards, last season, he still put together a 3.46 ERA and a 1.315 WHiP, striking out 217 batters in 218 innings. The Royals certainly have their work cut out for them today.
Yet, this is just par for the course for Shields. As the top starter for both the Rays and now the Royals, he is used to facing off against other top starters, at least at the beginning of the season. Likewise, getting an excellent start from Shields can help set the tone for the Royals in the early going. After their excellent finish to the 2013 season, getting a great start by Shields could do wonders for the Royals to continue that momentum.
Opening Day is a day that we, as baseball fans, consider to be our own personal holiday. However, for James Shields, it is just another workday during the season.