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Angels' Scot Shields leaning toward retirement

Reliever says an inability to recover from knee surgery in 2009 and a desire to spend more time with his family are part of the equation.

September 28, 2010|By Mike DiGiovanna

Everyone thought the arm would go, so it seems a bit ironic that a knee injury ultimately led to the demise of Scot Shields, the rubber-armed reliever whose durability and dependability made him one of baseball's best setup men from 2004 to 2008.

Shields said Tuesday that he is leaning heavily toward retiring after this season, his inability to bounce back from surgery on his left knee in 2009 and the emergence of several young relievers pushing the veteran right-hander out of the Angels' picture for 2011.

"I would say probably," Shields, when asked whether he would retire, said before the Angels' game against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night. "There's a business side of it and a personal side of it. From a business side, just look at the bullpen here.

"From a personal side, my family comes first, and I've missed too much of my life with them, so it might be time to go home. I had a great time here. I wish the organization the best of luck in the future."

Shields, who is married with two daughters, ages 8 and 5, was selected setup man of the decade by Sports Illustrated, and his 425 innings pitched from 2004 to 2008, when he was 35-29 with a 3.11 earned-run average, were the most by any big league reliever.

The last remaining link to the Angels' 2002 World Series championship team, Shields, who relied on a lively 94-mph sinking fastball and curve, also led the American League in holds from 2006 to 2008, with 31 in each season.

But patellar tendinitis in his left knee limited Shields, who is in the final year of a four-year, $18-million contract, to 20 games in 2009 — he was 1-3 with a 6.62 ERA in 17 2/3 innings — and he underwent season-ending surgery that June.

Though Shields, 35, looked strong at times this season, he never came close to regaining his form and was 0-3 with a 5.28 ERA in 43 games, most of them mop-up situations, before being shut down because of a sore elbow after a Sept. 7 game against Cleveland.

Shields threw in the bullpen over the weekend in hopes of making one final appearance in Angel Stadium, but his elbow remained sore, and he was advised not to pitch again this season.

He has a record of 46-44 with a 3.18 ERA in 10 seasons.

"He was filthy," said right fielder Torii Hunter, who was hitless in five at-bats against Shields while playing for Minnesota. "He had that weird delivery, he'd sling his arm and the ball would come at you at 93-94 mph. He was one of the top five guys I wouldn't want to face."

Shields combined with closers Troy Percival and Francisco Rodriguez to give the Angels a formidable back-of-the-bullpen one-two punch for much of the last decade, and he is at least partly responsible for the increase in salaries of non-closing relievers.

"He changed the way we look at relievers," Hunter said. "He set the bar for a lot of people in the game. He's done a lot for the Angels and the game of baseball."

Manager Mike Scioscia put Shields in "an elite class" because of his ability to pitch so effectively so often.

"He was the gold standard of setup guys, and we were fortunate to have him," Scioscia said. "He was a big influence on what Percy and Frankie were able to accomplish, and he takes great pride in that."

Center of attention

Rookie center fielder Peter Bourjos made a diving catch of Rajai Davis' drive to the left-center field gap in the third inning and leaped above the wall to rob Landon Powell of a two-run homer in the fourth to help the Angels' defeat the A's, 4-2, Tuesday night.

Hunter hit a home run in the second, his 22nd, and singled and scored in a decisive two-run sixth, which featured Mike Napoli's run-scoring single and Hideki Matsui's run-scoring groundout.

Dan Haren (4-4) gave up two runs and six hits in six innings to help the Angels pull into a second-place tie with Oakland in the American League West.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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