By Bruce Levine–
GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) — After an abysmal right-hander James Shields had an abysmal 2016, the White Sox are hoping he has something left in the tank.
Joining the White Sox in a trade last June, Shields didn’t live up to his “Big Game James” nickname last season in registering a 5.85 ERA that was the worst of any qualified starting pitchers in the big leagues. Shields’ 19 losses were also tied for the most in baseball in what was a train wreck of a season for an accomplished pitcher. Now, the 35-year-old Shields is intent on regaining a better form, even if it’s not realistic to reach the heights he once achieved.
His focus for the time being is to stay positive mentally as he competes in the Cactus League.
“I wasn’t very good,” Shields said of 2016. “I think my delivery was out of whack. My ball was flat. For the most part, I was up in the zone. We addressed that at the end of the season. We are now moving forward.”
Shields made his first spring training start Wednesday, allowing one run on two hits in two innings while striking out two and walking none. Shields knows the downhill plane of his pitches must improve to keep balls from sailing out of the park like they did in 2016, when Shields allowed 40 homers.
“The best thing a player can have is amnesia,” Shields said. “I am not worried about last season. I just concentrate on right now and on the work I am doing now. Hopefully we will move forward and progress as we go.”
Despite his struggles, Shields is the most accomplished pitcher on the White Sox’s staff. He’s looked at as a leader by the younger staff members, including 20-year-old prospect Michael Kopech.
“He is a really good kid,” Shields said. “He works really, really hard. The thing I like is he wants to learn. His attitude is great. He obviously has electric stuff.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.