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10/01/08 3:52 PM ET

An interview with Shields and Pena

Starter, first baseman get ready to be part of Rays history

James, just talk about your thoughts of 24 hours away from throwing the first playoff pitch in this franchise's history?

JAMES SHIELDS: You know what, the past couple days I really haven't been thinking about too much. You know, I've been getting asked a lot of questions today. You know, I'm excited. I mean, this is an amazing feeling. The year we had this year with our team has been absolutely amazing. The guys we have in our clubhouse have been amazing.

You know, I'm just looking forward to tomorrow, and hopefully to continue on to the World Series.

Carlos, this team has the opportunity to set the tone with the first two games at home here. I know you want to focus on one game at a time, one pitch at a time, but really, how exciting is this opportunity?

CARLOS PENA: We are extremely excited. This is something that we always, you know, personally always dreamed of it, just to be in this position. I know everyone in that clubhouse has. So we know this is actually a dream come true for us. So we won't lie. We're extremely excited. We're thrilled to be here.

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In fact, we try to take a deep breath and say, okay, let's go play our game, because the initial reaction to all of this is to get really overboard with it; go crazy. We're really excited. We're very happy to be here.

But we're professionals, too, so we're definitely going to focus on what we have to do. And yes, it is one pitch at a time, one inning at a time, one game at a time. So the better we do that, I think the better our chances are. And that's something that Joe talks about a lot, and I think we all understand that.

You talked way back in spring training about this team making the playoffs maybe. What did you see back then that made your words so strong back then?

CARLOS PENA: I talked about this team being good last year when we were in last place. I just could see the atmosphere and our energy, you know, how awesome it was to walk into that clubhouse.

Even last year when we were in last place, I mean, it was definitely something that was different from anyplace I'd ever been in before. I mean, this is truly a family. And I meant it last year when I said it.

To see it materialize, to me, it's amazing. To see the fact that we are in the playoffs right now in the postseason and see the type of season that we just had, it's so satisfying, because it started with that vision, you know, wow, this is great. This is something special is going to happen. All of a sudden, it has, and here we are. It can only get better.

So we're thrilled, and really grateful to be in this position.

You've had three days off. Now as a hitter, does that concern you in terms of your timing or does the rest outweigh those considerations?

CARLOS PENA: You know, all of us, that's open for argument. You know, some people say rest is important. Some others say you better be in there every single day to stay sharp. We're really not too concerned about that. I think we've had some really efficient practice sessions here the last two days.

We feel prepared. That's really all that matters. We try not to look too far outside ourselves or this clubhouse. We try to remain within, and know that if we take care of our business, we give ourselves a pretty good chance to winning.

We've just got to remain focused within.

You guys as a clubhouse kind of tired of hearing how are they going to react to this point in the postseason now, how are they going to react going into a postseason game with Red Sox in cold weather? Are you tired of hearing those questions?

JAMES SHIELDS: Of course we're tired of hearing it. But we've been hearing it all season long. We've had a lot of doubters this entire season. I've talked to a few people a couple weeks before the season ended, and people were still doubting us.

The bottom line is we believe in ourselves. You know, Joe was talking earlier about accountability, we've got to be accountable for our actions. I think we've done a great job this year of doing that. You know, we know what we can do in this clubhouse. We don't have to prove it to anybody else but ourselves.

That's what we've been doing all year long. We've taken every series, series by series, game by game. We haven't thought about the playoffs halfway through the season or anything like that.

We've got a good couple of veterans in our clubhouse to keep us even keeled. It's been great, man. It's one of those things where if everybody is accountable for what they do, and everybody is on board and jumps on board and has good chemistry with each other, this is the type of season we're going to have in the future for a long time.

I mean, as far as, you know, worrying about what people say about us in the playoffs, we're just going to keep doing what we know we can do and we're capable of doing, and we're not going to change too much.

If the White Sox hit so many homeruns, starting tomorrow is that something you need to think about or something you don't want to think about?

JAMES SHIELDS: The White Sox are a good hitting team. The way they've won ballgames this year, it's been amazing. I've been watching that team all year long. You know, they can change the game in one swing. And I do have to think about that.

I think I'm the type of pitcher that I'm a groundball pitcher, more or less. And you know, I'm a strike thrower, so I've got to keep an eye on that. If I just concentrate on every pitch throughout the game and be efficient with my pitches like I've been all season long, I don't think I'm going to have to worry about that too much.

You know you're going to have 30,000 plus fans here, and another soldout crowd. Both of you, what advice do you have to these crazy cow bell ringing fans, do you want them to go nuts the whole time or other times you want them to keep it down? Carlos, you first.

CARLOS PENA: I just want them to go nuts. So many times I hear -- when players get to first base, they tell me, this place is loud. Honestly, I cannot even hear myself think, they say. Many players have said that already. So I know it's going to be even louder than that during the playoffs, because the intensity's going to be that much higher.

So go ahead, go crazy. Make it as uncomfortable as they possibly can for these guys coming in. It's a lot harder to throw a pitch, to execute a pitch when the opposing pitcher is on the mound and there's 35,000 people just screaming and making it really uncomfortable for him.

Same thing for a batter. You know, you have the stadium going nuts and this is not your home turf. It's going to be a little tougher to focus on that ball. So I definitely think it makes a difference when those fans are behind us.

JAMES SHIELDS: For me, I mean, you pack the house in here, like he said, you can't even hear yourself think out there. It is home field advantage. I've told people this from day one, I don't think there's any team that likes to come into here to the Trop and play.

Everybody comes in here, they don't like astroturf, they don't like the dome, they don't like the rings around the top. I think our record has shown this year when we have above 30,000 people, we do pretty good.

So we're inviting everybody out and scream as loud as you want. It gets us pumped up out there. It gets us ready to go. You know, we like that thing. We thrive on the excitement.

Can you speak to Carl Crawford returning right now? The timing of that, can that provide a big lift, especially to the lineup?

CARLOS PENA: I think so. You know, Carl Crawford is Carl Crawford, one of the young stars of this game. In my mind, he's a future Hall of Famer. Great kid, good professional. Never seen anyone work harder than this guy, he's really on it. The way he's gone about his rehab, you know, it says a lot about his character and his professionalism.

I think he's got the heart for it. You know, he's been gone for so long now I think maybe a month or so, I'm not sure how long, exactly. He is so excited that the opportunity has come for him to play in the postseason.

I remember we were celebrating. I gave him a big hug and I told him, man, this is for you. You've been working so hard, and now you're here. You're going to be healthy, and you're going to play. So embrace this. And he was thrilled.

He's so excited to be able to play. And I think he's going to be a great boost to our lineup.

Can you talk about the honor of being chosen the number one pitcher to start this series and the opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the pitching staff?

JAMES SHIELDS: You know, I think anybody could ask our staff, you know. Any one of us five could be the number one guy here. We've all done a great job. For them to choose me as the Opening Day guy and the number one starter in the playoffs, I mean it's an amazing feeling to me.

I've worked so hard to get to a point like this, this stature of play and October baseball. We grew up looking forward to October baseball. We sit at home every October and watch October baseball. That's what it's all about.

So I'm honored. I'm thrilled. You know, I'm going to do my best out there and hopefully we can get a couple wins under my belt.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.