GLENDALE, Ariz. — There will be a James Shields sighting Thursday, and no one is happier about that than the 36-year-old right-hander himself who hasn’t pitched in a spring-training game yet. Shields has been working instead on back fields in simulated games as he prepares for his 13th season.
Opening day will be exactly three weeks away, and it’s high time Shields gets the blood pumping. Manager Rick Renteria hasn’t announced who’s getting the ball on March 29 in Kansas City, but Shields is expected to.
“I could use some adrenaline right now,’’ Shields said Wednesday. “The back-field stuff is all good for working and everything. I’m excited to get in the game tomorrow, join the team.’’
Shields hasn’t really been away. He’s there in the clubhouse every day, always upbeat, often talking pitching with prospects such as Michael Kopech. He’s a veteran presence among many youngsters on a team whose 40-man roster is the third-youngest in the American League with an average age of 26.6.
“I was looking at the time cards the other day; we have, like, 16 guys over three years in this clubhouse out of 67 guys,’’ Shields said. “We have a young club and a lot, a lot of talent. I’m excited to watch these kids do it this year.’’
Fans are into the Sox’ rebuild, and it didn’t help that Fernando Tatis Jr., who has risen to top-10 prospect status, was the shortstop the Sox gave up for him.
“I’m not worried about the fans,’’ Shields said. “I know what I need to do, and I hope they embrace me. I work hard every five days, and I’m going to pitch well, and it’s about the fans — we’re in this game for the fans. But I can’t worry about it. I have to worry about my job and getting it done.”
Carlos Rodon has been throwing on flat ground at 120 feet, and while he’s eager to throw off a mound soon, he’s resisting the urge to push forward.
“The recovery days after throwing heavy have been good,’’ Rodon said. “I threw heavy yesterday; I feel good today. Honestly, the main thing is how the arm is feeling, and it feels like I’m past the whole arm-strength part.’’
Rodon had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder Sept. 27 and doesn’t figure to pitch for the Sox until June at the earliest.
“I’ll see a mound in the near future; I don’t know when,’’ he said. “I know it’s getting closer the way I’m progressing.’’
Hawk Day on Sept. 2
The Sox are honoring Ken “Hawk” Harrelson’s 33rd and final season in the broadcast booth all season long, including a Hawk “Solo” bobblehead giveaway on May 19 and culminating with Hawk Day, when the Sox host the Red Sox, Harrelson’s former team, on Sept. 2.
“We want to provide many opportunities for fans to show their admiration and respect for Hawk throughout his last season in the booth,’’ Sox vice president for marketing and sales Brooks Boyer said. “It’s the end of an era. There will never be another Hawk. He’s one of a kind.”
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