GLENDALE, Ariz. — James Shields says he has nothing to prove.
But the 35-year-old right-hander, who owns a 133-116 record with a 3.91 ERA and nine consecutive seasons with more than 200 innings in an 11-year career with the Rays, Royals, Padres and White Sox, had a disastrous 2016 season, and he knows it. So he is focused on performing more like the workhorse right-hander the Sox thought they were getting in a midseason trade with the Padres.
“It’s not the first time I’ve had a rough season,’’ Shields said. “I’ve been in the game a long time.
“I have nothing to prove. My -career speaks for itself. I definitely want to prove to White Sox fans who I am, when I was facing them. I want to go out and compete this year and do well.’’
Shields was 4-12 with a 6.77 ERA with the Sox, and 6-19 with a 5.85 ERA overall last season. Shields kind of laughed after he was asked if he was “shocked” at some of the beatings he took last season.
“Yeah, I mean, you know I wish it could have been better. I’m a competitor. I don’t like to lose or get hit around like that. Shocking factor? Not really. Sometimes those things happen. Unfortunately it happened too often. But I have a lot of confidence in my ability and what I did this offseason.’’
Shields will earn $21 million this season, and the Sox will owe him $10 million of that.
“I’m trying to put that in the back of my mind and moving forward,’’ he said. “I had a really bad season in 2010 [5.18 ERA] and a really good season in 2011 [2.82, finishing third in AL Cy Young voting], so we’ll see what happens.’’
“I’m hoping last year was an aberration, and that’s where I’m going to enter it,’’ Cooper said. “He still has everything he needs stuff-wise to get people out. He has movement. He has a great changeup. He commands that fastball. We’re hoping for a lot better, and I’m sure he is too.
“It was a horrible start, and then we saw a good amount of starts, where we said, ‘Hey, there it is, he’s throwing the ball better.’ ’’
“We need more consistency from him. We need to see more of the good ones and kick out some of the lemons he had.’’
Shields, who has made 11 postseason starts, says he’ll embrace “being a leader and showing these guys what professional baseball is all about.
“We’ve got a lot of good, young talent.’’
With Chris Sale and Adam Eaton gone from a team that finished six games below .500, the Sox don’t figure to contend, but Shields isn’t throwing in the towel.
“Look in our clubhouse, what did we get rid of, a couple of guys? It’s not a complete rebuild. I know they’re talking about it but we have a good group of guys and a lot of the same core guys while adding some young pieces into the organization.
“I actually embrace that role. In Tampa, it seemed like we were rebuilding every year and we ended up in the playoffs five times. I don’t worry about the rebuild, I worry about this season.’’
It’s been a while since he was called “Big Game James.”
“I never really was Big Game James to be honest with you,’’ Shields said. “That’s Big Game James Worthy, man.’’
After last season, the Sox would be more than happy with Quality Start James.