By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — With a youth movement going on all around him on a rebuilding team, a veteran like White Sox right-hander James Shields could easily feel out of place.
Truth be told, the 35-year-old Shields is content with where he’s at. Shields has taken on the gray beard role with a young White Sox staff developing around him. Off the field, he’s done his best to be a mentor and great teammate.
“His ability to share things with the other guys, it is really important for us,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The benefit is two-pronged at this time. The way he is pitching, we are going to take advantage of it.”
On Wednesday evening, Shields no-hit the Twins through 3 2/3 innings and registered a quality start by going six innings and allowing three runs, all earned, on three hits and two walks while striking out six. He left trailing 3-1 before the White Sox rallied late for a 4-3 win at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Shields’ new three-quarters arm slot has kept lineups off balance recently.
“All it is now is I am back to a three-quarter guy,” Shields said of his new approach. “I used to be that way, but a few years ago I started to throw over the top. I just have gone back to it. I feel comfortable with it. We are just going to go the rest of the season with (the three-quarter arm slot) and see how it goes.”
With the White Sox’s progression of young pitching talent well under way to the big leagues — recently in the form of Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito — there appears to be little room for a veteran like Shields, who’s owed $21 million in 2018 ($10 from the White Sox and $11 million from the Padres, his former team) and then has a $16 million team option with a $2 million buyout in 2019.
Because of the financial situation, the smart bet is on Shields showing up at White Sox spring training next February. What happens after that is anyone’s guess.
With so many unproven youngsters likely to be counted on in the next several years, the White Sox could still use a pitcher who’s used to the grind of 175 to 200 innings per season like Shields is. The youngsters like Lopez and Giolito and Carson Fulmer will likely be held to lower innings count in their first full big league seasons.
That may well leave an opening for those like Shields to be needed and counted upon.
“My whole career I have been with young teams and young players,” Shields said. “Anything I can do to help these guys out, I am all about winning. If I can help these guys get better and win some ball games, that is what I am going to do.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.