tampabay.com

Shields' strategy: Keep them guessing

TORONTO - Rays RHP James Shields credits his best outing of the season Wednesday against Baltimore to having the confidence to make adjustments against a team that had seen him earlier in the season.

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published May 15, 2007


TORONTO - Rays RHP James Shields credits his best outing of the season Wednesday against Baltimore to having the confidence to make adjustments against a team that had seen him earlier in the season.

Shields pitched nine shutout innings, limiting the Orioles to three hits in a 1-0, 10-inning loss. The key was recognizing in the first that the Orioles were sitting on his changeup and relying more on his fastball as well as his cutter and curveball. Shields had faced Baltimore on April 15, allowing nine hits and five earned runs, both season highs.

Instead of throwing his changeup the usual 30-40 times, Shields said he threw about 15 Wednesday. He expects to make a similar adjustment tonight against Texas, which he faced in his second start of the season, allowing four runs on five hits over seven innings.

"The less they see it, the more effective it's going to be for sure, " Shields said. "When you're facing a team for the second time, the first time you're throwing the whole book at them to beat them and the second time it is pretty much a guessing game.

"I'm not going to adjust my approach until they adjust their approach."

SPREADING IT OUT: Rays 1B Carlos Pena is 12-for-31 .387 in his past 10 games, raising his average from .196 to .268, and is hitting so well manager Joe Maddon moved him up in the batting order to sixth to give leading run-producer B.J. Upton protection.

Pena, who has been a pull power hitter for most of his career, has learned to concentrate on hitting more line drives and hitting the ball to the middle of the field. The power has come in turn. He homered on back-to-back days in Toronto, both to the middle third of the field.

"It felt really good to hit the ball with authority the other way, " Pena said. "That's what I envision. ... The margin for error is greater when you think up the middle. It's easier said than done, so we have to keep working on it."

FLYING DRY: Though the Rays have stopped serving alcohol on team flights back to Tampa Bay, they have no immediate plans to remove beer from the clubhouse.

And though the move comes shortly after the death of Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock, it is believed executive vice president Andrew Friedman asked team travel director Jeff Ziegler to find out other teams' policies on serving alcohol on flights about two weeks before Hancock's accident, in which alcohol was a factor.

The idea behind it is that players might be drinking for multiple hours unsupervised on a plane then get into their vehicles shortly afterward, whereas postgame beer consumption in the clubhouse is more supervised.

MISCELLANY: Triple-A Durham RHP Andy Sonnanstine on Monday pitched seven innings of one-run, two-hit ball. Sonnanstine struck out 10 and walked two. RHP Seth McClung struck out four in two hitless innings to earn his second save and trim his ERA to 1.61. SS Ben Zobrist was 2-for-4.