Angels reliever Scot Shields emerged from a closed-door meeting with Manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher on Monday afternoon and ... returned to his locker and finished getting dressed for pregame stretch.
It almost seemed like an upset.
The veteran right-hander's earned-run average jumped to 6.05 after he walked three, gave up two hits and three runs in 1 1/3 innings of the Angels' 9-4 loss in Detroit on Sunday.
With relievers Jason Bulger and Brian Stokes close to being activated off the disabled list, Shields' days in Anaheim appear numbered.
Once one of baseball's most durable and dependable relievers — Sports Illustrated selected him setup man of the decade — Shields 35, has been unable to regain his form after sitting out most of 2009 because of surgery on his left knee.
He was 0-3 in 36 games before Monday, with 31 walks and 34 strikeouts in 38 2/3 innings, and has been relegated to the back of the bullpen.
The last remaining link to the Angels' 2002 World Series-winning team, Shields, in the final year of a four-year, $18-million deal, could be designated for assignment soon. If he finishes out 2010 in Anaheim, the Angels probably won't re-sign him for 2011.
"He takes things hard, and he's frustrated with where his level of contribution and achievement are," Scioscia said. "We're trying to get him back to basics.
"Every year, he has to adjust his release point and mechanics. He's fought through a lot this year, but the arm speed and stuff are there. He needs to marry that with command."
Shields has shown glimpses of his old self. He gave up one earned run in 11 innings of eight appearances from June 15 to July 20, lowering his ERA from 6.86 to 4.70. He threw hitless innings in two games in Baltimore before his meltdown in Detroit, which turned a 6-4 Angels deficit into a 9-4 deficit.
"It's frustrating because I'll feel like I'm getting back to the pitcher I know I can be for a couple of outings, and then I'll take a step or two back," Shields said.
"A lot of [my frustration] is not being there and helping the team, whether I'm in the role I'm in now or my old role. It was a two-run game when I came in [Sunday]. There have been four, five, six games where if I do my job, we have a chance to win."
With cleanup batter Torii Hunter sitting out the third game of a four-game suspension, Mike Napoli remained on the bench Monday night for the fourth time in five games, even though Napoli is tied with Hunter for the Angels' lead with 18 home runs.
Hideki Matsui, who had three singles in his previous 24 at-bats and began Monday's game with a .244 average, 14 homers and 55 runs batted in, started in the cleanup spot against the Kansas City Royals.
"He will get his at-bats," Scioscia said of Napoli, who is batting .258 with 51 RBIs and a team-high 94 strikeouts. "We're trying to get some continuity with [Maicer] Izturis, Erick [Aybar) and Alberto [Callaspo]. And Howie Kendrick is getting some looks at first base. This week, we've been looking at a couple of things offensively."
Another number Scioscia has looked at closely: Napoli is batting .200 with runners in scoring position.
"He's shown power, but situational hitting is obviously something he's paid attention to," Scioscia said. "He's trying to cut down his swing with guys in scoring position, and hopefully it will pay dividends."
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