Notes: Shields showing consistency
Right-hander has set his sights on pitching 200 innings
OAKLAND -- Save for giving up a few home run balls, James Shields has been Mr. Consistency for the Devil Rays this season.
Being consistent is "big," Shields said. "It's definitely up there, probably top five for me when it comes to the most important things. ... You've got your bad days and your good days. And you just have to pace yourself as a starter. Like [Friday night], I used 25 or 30 pitches in the first inning. After that I just had to bear down and make some pitches. I had a couple of quick innings that helped me catch back up on my pitch count. You don't really learn it. You just kind of pitch your game and hope for the best."
Consistency is an endearing trait for a starting pitcher to possess.
"It's very important for a young starting pitcher," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's important we get that from everybody. One of the most difficult things about us [as a team], you don't know what to expect on certain nights from certain people. With Shieldsy, to this point we have a pretty good idea about what to expect. Even on not his best days he can give you a chance to win and that's where he's showing different right now for us. I'd like to get all of our guys into that category where we know what to expect on a nightly basis."
Shields has gone eight innings the past two games and looked as though he could have pitched a complete game in both starts. The idea of Shields pitching 200 innings every year is becoming more prominent. Surpassing 200 innings would mean a lot to the right-hander.
"It's one of my goals this year," Shields said. "You look at any other good pitcher around, Barry Zito and guys like that, they're pitching 200 innings, making every start, staying healthy. And they're collecting their wins. I've never hit the 200 mark so it would definitely be a nice milestone for me."
What's in the bullpen: Maddon expected bullpen roles to be established early in the season, and several pieces have clicked into place thus far. Obviously Al Reyes is the closer while Shawn Camp and Brian Stokes also have shown Maddon something.
"Camper right now appears ready to achieve what he did last year," Maddon said. "Stokes, I still have a lot of faith in. For the most part the other guys have shown us flashes, but there's not been that knowing what to expect on a nightly basis or daily basis from them."
Baldelli update: Rocco Baldelli did not start for the second consecutive day Saturday due to a swollen right knee. On Friday Maddon said Baldelli could be back as the DH Sunday, but that sounded more questionable Saturday.
"Too soon to tell based on what I saw, I'm honestly not sure," Maddon said. "That's a morning time decision prior to [Sunday's] game. When I get in tomorrow [I'll] try to figure it out. I think he can pinch hit. I just don't want to push him running wise.
"With the day off the next day, if we can get him through the whole weekend and not have to use him then he gets the next day. So from Rocco's perspective, he's started feeling pretty good at the plate, too, and he doesn't want to lose that feeling. So it's a fine line to balance. If he's very convincing and he looks like he can move OK, I might be able to be swayed and let him play."
Empty gas tank: There is no worse feeling for a pitcher than when he bottoms out or runs out of energy on the mound. Rays ace Scott Kazmir smiled when discussing what it's like to continue pitching with an empty gas tank.
"That's the thing, you don't have anything to reach for," Kazmir said. "You just go out there and try to put the ball in a certain spot. It's all you can do. ... When you're gassed, you've got to just use what you have. You can't overpower anyone. You just can't miss your spot. So they're going to see it pretty well. And when you're feeling really good, you think you can get away with it."
Up next: The Rays will wrap up their three-game series with the A's -- and their five-game road trip -- Sunday in a 4:05 p.m. ET contest at McAfee Coliseum. Left-hander Kazmir will start for the Rays and will be opposed by left-hander Dallas Braden.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.