The back pain surfaced late at night two Sundays ago. Waves of nausea soon followed. As the Royals wrapped up their first berth in the World Series since 1985 last week, James Shields was grappling with the effects of a kidney stone, the pitcher told The Star.
“It was excruciating pain,” Shields said during Monday’s workout before game one on Tuesday against San Francisco. “I wasn’t feeling good.”
Shields will face Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner after 11 days off. One reason for the length of Shields’ layoff was his condition. The team debated starting him in the fourth game of the American League Championship Series, but ultimately opted for Jason Vargas.
Shields underwent a CT scan to determine the source of his discomfort. By then, the team’s medical staff deduced he had already passed the stone. Shields still looked wan on Monday afternoon, when a rainout of game three allowed the Royals the opportunity to use him on regular rest for the fourth game.
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Instead, they went with Vargas as they swept the Orioles. In part, the team felt compelled to keep Vargas fresh for this upcoming engagement with San Francisco. But Shields also benefited from the extra time off.
“I probably could have used the extra day (of rest),” Shields said. “But I just told them ‘Whenever you need me, I’m ready to go.’”
Facing the Giants in August, Shields pitched one of his best games as a Royal. He allowed four hits in a shutout. He indicated he would study the film from that outing, but could only draw so much from it.
A more pressing concern is his performance this October. His pitching has not cost the Royals, considering their undefeated record in eight playoff games. But it has fallen short of his standards. Shields has posted a 5.63 ERA in three games. He has yet to record an out in the seventh inning.
“I haven’t pitched the way that I’ve wanted to,” Shields said. “There’s no doubt about it. I feel like I could pitch better. But that said, I’ve felt really good. My bullpen sessions have been really good. I feel as good as I can feel right now.
“I’m a big believer in amnesia. I’ve been doing it my whole entire career. I’ve had a bunch of bad outings. And I’ve always been able to come back from them. So I’m not really too worried about it.”