MINNEAPOLIS — Three starts into the season, and James Shields, the much maligned right-hander who came from the Padres in a questionable trade last June, is looking like the accomplished pitcher the Sox thought they got when they made the deal.
Shields’ six-inning performance Sunday was the third good outing in as many starts for the 35-year-old who ranks first in the major leagues in innings and starts since 2007. After going 6-19 with a dreadful 5.85 ERA between two teams last season, Shields is making quality starts again, posting a 1.62 ERA with a 1-0 record and two no-decisions. The only run he allowed was an inside-the-park homer by Brian Dozier leading off the fifth, one of nine hits against him all season in 16‰ innings. He struck out five and walked three.
“Just trying to be as aggressive as I possibly can, trying to mix up speeds, get them off balance a little bit,’’ Shields said. “We have a long season to go. I’m off to a good start, but we have a lot of work to do.’’
Shields has featured a slow curve more than usual this year. He dropped in a 69 mph pitch for a strikeout of Miguel Sano in the first and got the slugger to look at another slow curve for strike three in the third. The scoreboard described it as an “eephus” pitch.
“Yeah, I did see that,’’ Shields said, smiling. “It’s kind of funny. I’ve never seen that before.
“Just a slower curveball. I’ve kind of messed around with it a little bit. I feel like I have a pretty good feel for it, so I’ve been throwing it a little more. It’s not like a go-to pitch, but it’s been effective and I’ve been able to get them off balance and change speeds a little more than anything.’’
Anderson gets day off
Manager Rick Renteria gave struggling shortstop Tim -Anderson a mental health day.
“Just to let him kind of sit back and watch the ballgame a little bit,’’ Renteria said. “Kind of take a breath. That’s it. He’ll be back in there tomorrow.’’
Anderson, who signed a six-year, $25 million extension during spring training, is 6-for-43 (.140), including two hits in his last 21 at-bats. One was a homer leading off the Sox’ 10-4 win against the Indians on Thursday.
“He’s been pressing a little,” Renteria said. “Take a step back, relax, regroup.’’
Frazier still ailing
Todd Frazier also was out of the lineup, a day after he left in the fourth inning with recurring flu-like symptoms. Frazier had missed two games in Cleveland because he was sick.
“He’s still a little dehydrated, so we’re letting him rest and recover,’’ Renteria said.
Matt Davidson played third and hit a game-tying sacrifice fly for his 10th RBI and singled twice, raising his average to .370.
Melky Cabrera will rejoin the team in New York on Monday after three days on the paternity list. Willy Garcia was sent back to Class AAA Charlotte.
Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.