Royals' big pitch to win now exciting to Shields

By Dick Kaegel /11/12/12 6:16 PM ET

KANSAS CITY -- James Shields liked what he heard from Royals general manager Dayton Moore when he welcomed the pitcher to his new home.
"It sounds like he wants to win and wants to win now," Shields said, "and that's what I'm all about. I want to win this season and not worry about years down the road. I'm worried about winning right now."
That was the impetus for a six-player trade that Moore consummated with Tampa Bay, sending four Minor League prospects to the Rays for two seasoned pitchers, Shields and Wade Davis.
"If we want our young players to reach their ceiling, you've got to win games at the Major League level and James Shields and Wade Davis put us in a position to do just that," Moore said.
Moore and his two new right-handed starters talked on Monday to the media -- the GM in person and the pitchers on the phone -- about Sunday night's big trade. The Royals gave up their top hitting prospect, outfielder Wil Myers, and their top pitching prospect, right-hander Jake Odorizzi, plus left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard.
Royals pitcher Danny Duffy, at Kauffman Stadium to have his repaired left elbow checked, happened by the media gathering and provided a player's point of view.
"It tells that you that we're serious," Duffy said. "I'm so excited, so stoked."
And Duffy is one of the pitchers, when he does return in May or June, who might find himself squeezed out of a rotation spot. Pennant fever seems to be spreading.
Manager Ned Yost, from his farm in Georgia, affirmed that Shields takes over as his No. 1 starter.
"We gave up some great players, but we got some great players back," Yost said. "We need to solidify our starting pitching and this gives us a real shot. We can send a quality starter out there every single day, so we're happy about it."
Yost also confirmed that Davis, who worked out of the Rays' bullpen this year, will return to a starting role.
But there will be a scramble for the four spots behind Shields. Previous offseason moves brought in Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles Angels and brought back Jeremy Guthrie from the free-agent ranks.
Then there's left-hander Bruce Chen, the Royals' top winner the last three seasons, and right-hander Luke Hochevar, still held in high esteem. (Moore, asked if he'd have non-tendered Hochevar if he'd known about the Rays trade beforehand, replied: "No, we believe in Luke. There's a lot of talent there.")
And don't forget Luis Mendoza and Will Smith, both starters last season. That's eight right there, not even counting Duffy and Felipe Paulino who'll be coming off Tommy John surgery around midseason or so.
"We'll sort it through," Yost said. "You can never have enough quality pitching. That's always the way that it is. You think you have enough and then, at the end, you just don't. So we'll sort through it and figure it out. We're going to pick the best five guys that give us an opportunity to win every single day."
That's an exciting prospect for a manager who saw his Royals short-circuited by a 12-game skid virtually at the get-go last April.
"You get a rotation like this, you're not going through a 12-game losing streak like we had last year," Yost said. "We've got guys that can stop it every single day."
Shields, a hard-working horse of a right-hander, is the type of starter that prompted the Royals to trade the future for more immediate results.
In the case of Shields, he could become a free agent after two Kansas City seasons while Myers or Odorizzi could be around for at least six years. But Moore was able to hold onto his core Major League lineup of young players and not give up anyone from a strong bullpen in this deal.
"Major League players have a small window of opportunity to win together and we exist as a baseball operations staff to make sure this core group gets that opportunity," Moore said.
The Royals have had just one winning season in the last 18 years and lost 100 or more games four times. Shields recalled arriving at Tampa Bay in 2006 during a bleak period that turned around so dramatically that he was pitching in a World Series by 2008.
"I've been there -- I've lost 100 games before and I've also won 96, 97 games, too," Shields said. "So I think me and Wade can bring a little bit to the table as far as knowing what it takes to win, and we're definitely going to try to do that this next year."
In recent years, Shields shared center stage with David Price, but he likes the idea of being the "the guy" on a pitching staff.
"I definitely relish that," he said. "I'm not the type of player that puts too much pressure on myself, I just like to go out and pitch my game. I feel like I'm an inning-eater, I can pitch every five days and go out there with my heart on my sleeve and lay it all out on the line."
Davis, a Rays rotation regular in 2010-11, pitched strictly in relief last year but is eager to resume starting.
"Yeah, absolutely." Davis said. "I was working out, being prepared for that, when the World Series was going on. It's something that I knew I'd get the opportunity to do and I'll be ready."
His time in the bullpen was an education.
"I think I learned how to put my foot on the gas pedal from the get-go instead of working into a rhythm and being ready to go at the start of a game," he said.
Shields, by the way, made life miserable for the Royals, posting a 7-2 career record against them in 10 starts.
"He's made life miserable for a lot of people over the years," Yost said. "That's why it's exciting to have him."