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White Sox righty James Shields rebounds after rough first inning on Opening Day

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 29: James Shields #33 of the Chicago White Sox pitches during the 1st inning of the game against the Kansas City Royals on Opening Day at Kauffman Stadium on March 29, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Somewhere during a four-run, five-hit, 35-pitch first inning, James Shields started trending on Twitter.

White Sox fans were hyperventilating over the latest struggles from the oldest dude on a team full of kids.

“It was a grind,” Shields said. “No doubt.”

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The Kansas City Royals stacked up four runs before getting their first out and Shields looked like he was about to ruin the eighth Opening Day start of his career.

But after that ugly first inning that was punctuated by Lucas Duda’s three-run homer on a 2-0 pitch — the only one Shields says he would take back — the veteran settled down. He retired 18 of the next 21 batters and didn’t allow another hit or run to earn the victory in the Sox’ 14-7 romp Thursday at Kauffman Stadium.

“But those are the games I love, man,” the 36-year-old said. “It’s been that way my whole career.”

This was Shields’ 139th career victory — and his first without striking out a single batter. He pitched six innings and never nudged manager Rick Renteria into warming his relievers in the early stages.

“Nice recovery,” Renteria said. “He was upset a little bit after that first inning. He decided to attack the zone in a controlled way. It says a lot about his experience — and his heart.”

Shields watchers might have noticed that after all the trouble in the first, the right-hander dropped his arm into a lower slot — a move that helped him finish 2017 on a strong note.

The adjustment Thursday was out of necessity.

“I did drop down a little bit more at the end, just to get a few more ground balls and a little more movement. An in-game adjustment,” he said with a laugh. “I’m still working on it.”

Shields is in the final year of a four-year, $75 million contract that seems to be a drag on the Sox’ payroll. There are no guarantees if he will get a major-league contract next spring training from any team.But there is no question the cool veteran remains a popular figure in this maturing clubhouse.

“We are a family here,” said designated hitter Matt Davidson, whose three home runs helped rescue Shields’ day.

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