PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- James Shields will be the Rays' Opening Day starter against the Red Sox in Boston on April 6.

"It feels pretty good," Shields said. "It's a nice compliment for me."

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Rays manager Joe Maddon surprised reporters with his announcement Wednesday afternoon at the Charlotte Sports Complex. Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine will follow Shields in the rotation.

"I actually was pretty shocked," Shields said. "You don't normally find out until the last week of Spring Training. But I think he just wanted to get it out of the way. And we're going to go from there."

Maddon said Shields earned the right to start on Opening Day, adding that they also liked the idea of having the left-handed Kazmir pitching in between the right-handers, Shields and Garza.

"We're at the point now we have three guys we feel who can open up for us at any time," Maddon said. "But obviously, choosing one, based on the body of work Shieldsy has done, we chose to go with him first. But we're just trying to balance this out, which makes most sense for us, and we chose to do it this way."

Shields was gracious, telling reporters than any one of the starters in the rotation could have gotten the nod.

"I think having Kaz in between me and Garza is a pretty good thing," Shields said. "And I'm going to take it with honor. ... It's just a compliment for how hard I've been working. And I'm going to try and continue it every year."

Shields went 14-8 with a 3.56 ERA in 2008, leading the team in innings pitched with 215 and tied for the lead in wins. He also started Opening Day in 2008 at Baltimore and picked up his first win of the season when he allowed two runs on five hits in seven innings. Being the Opening Day starter last season "was pretty nerve-wracking," Shields said. "I pitched in Camden Yards for my [Major League] debut as well. So it was a pretty special day for me.

"I'm going to try and start the season out with a bang and hopefully we can start the season off with a win against the BoSox and continue what we did last year."

Maddon said he is not ready to announce the fifth starter, nor when the fifth starter will first pitch.

"We have different options with that," Maddon said. "We're still discussing that. In the past, a lot of times we just went ahead and did it and took advantage of an off-day. Of course, the weather may have something to do with that. But right now we're just going with these four guys that we know. And as we get closer to that point we'll try to make another decision."