ST. PETERSBURG -- Manager Joe Maddon believes James Shields should be a member of this year's American League squad at the Midsummer Classic.
"Shieldsy definitely has to be considered for the All-Star team," Maddon said. "His ERA is down to a 2.60, [Tuesday night was] his third shutout of the season. And look at the innings the guy's racked up. The guy's into the seventh, eighth or ninth inning every time he goes out there. What else do you need to do to be an All-Star? I've been thinking that for a bit, that not only he should be considered, but be on the team. And a performance like [Tuesday night] really should galvanize that thought."
Shields threw his third shutout of the season Tuesday night, setting the club record for a single season. He currently leads the Majors in shutouts and is tied with Philadelphia's Roy Halladay for the Major League lead with four complete games.
The Rays right-hander is the first AL pitcher with three shutouts on this date since 1994, when Kansas City's David Cone and Seattle's Randy Johnson each had three shutouts through June 14. The only other Major Leaguer to do so in this span is Halladay, who had three on this date last season.
Shields has more shutouts this season than 25 teams, and more complete games than 21 teams.
When it comes to knuckleball, hit it high
ST. PETERSBURG -- Justin Ruggiano, who homered off Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on Tuesday night, said Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton had just one piece of hitting advice prior to the game.
"If it's high, let it fly," Ruggiano said.
Shelton said that's the only advice to give a hitter before facing a knuckleball pitcher. But swinging at the high pitches is just one of the many theories about hitting the pitch, an experience likened to eating soup with a fork. Wakefield is one of the best to have thrown the pitch, even though he took his fifth career loss Tuesday night in 26 appearances at Tropicana Field.
"The biggest thing is that [Wakefield is] different than most guys," Shelton said. "He has the ability to manipulate it, and then when you get inside and there are no external conditions with a guy who's able to manipulate it, it makes it a little tougher, especially early on. The balls we did get to hit we hit foul. So it's more of an up thing.
"I think most younger guys that throw it, throw it. He's able to control it. That's why he's able to throw it when he's behind in the count. He threw [John] Jaso one when he was behind 3-0 last night, and threw a good one. And because of the fact there's no external conditions -- there's no wind or anything else -- the humidity never changes. I think that's why he's been so successful in this building."
Shelton discounted the belief that facing a knuckleball pitcher would mess up a hitter the next night when facing a conventional pitcher.
"You don't worry about it," Shelton said. "It's two different days. I think the biggest thing is the day you do face a guy like him, we didn't hit. The next night it's a new day. It's just like facing a soft-tossing left-hander and then a guy who throws hard."
Manager Joe Maddon said he did not believe the Red Sox's Kevin Youkilis intentionally made contact with first baseman Casey Kotchman's right ankle when grounding out in the ninth. Kotchman had a bruise in the area Wednesday.
Jeff Niemann made a successful rehab appearance for Triple-A Durham Tuesday night. Maddon said Niemann is "in line to pitch next week in Milwaukee" when the team plays the Brewers in an Interleague contest.
Darren O'Donnell, who is cycling 10,500 miles in 170 days to watch games at all 30 Major League ballparks this season, visited Tropicana Field Wednesday night and was on the field during batting practice. His trek is known as the "Baseball Biking Tour," and Tropicana Field became the 11th ballpark on his tour. The 24-year-old from Bellingham, Wash., can be followed on Twitter @Baseball_Biking.
Tampa Bay Lightning players Steven Stamkos, Nate Thompson, Teddy Purcell and Mike Smith will take batting practice with the Rays on Thursday at 4:15 p.m. ET. They will also throw out the ceremonial first pitches prior to the 7:10 p.m. game.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.