Former Angels hurler Shields opts to retire
Right-hander was setup reliever for Percival, Rodriguez
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Labeled "the gold standard" for setup artists by Angels manager Mike Scioscia, Scot Shields has announced his retirement from Major League Baseball.
"In the Minors, I never would have thought that I'd have made it to the big leagues," said Shields, who appeared in 491 games across 10 Major League seasons with the Angels after he was taken in the 38th round of the 1997 First-Year Player Draft. "Then, getting the chance, I was going to go as long as I could throw, whether it was going to be a year or two or three."
Shields, 35, decided it was time to retire after enduring two injury-disrupted seasons. He had one offer in free agency he found intriguing, but knew that if he had to talk himself into it, his heart was at home with his family, not on a mound somewhere.
"There were some teams interested," he said, "but nothing seemed like the right fit. My mind was made up for a while. It was definitely the right decision."
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Shields reigned supreme in the eighth inning from 2004 through 2008 after converting full-time to the bullpen. He'd made his Major League debut in 2001, and appeared in 29 games for the 2002 World Series champion Angels.
After starting 13 times and appearing in relief in 31 other games in '03, he became a setup man with few equals, turning things over to Troy Percival and Francisco Rodriguez for Angels teams that won five division titles in six years.
"Scot evolved into the gold standard for what setup men are," Scioscia said. "What impressed us about Scot is he could have gone to a lot of places and been a closer, but he was committed to this organization -- and the organization committed to him.
"He accepted that role and became the best at it. Scot was about winning. If he had to take the ball in the seventh inning and pitch the ninth, he would have done it. Thirty years ago, he would have been getting two-plus, three-inning saves. That's how good he was."
Starting in 2005, Shields led the American League for four consecutive seasons in holds with 33, 31, 31 and 31. Sports Illustrated named him Setup Man of the Decade.
He could have ventured into free agency and likely attracted a more lucrative offer as a closer. But Shields agreed to a three-year extension in March 2007, finishing his career with the organization where it all began.
Shields recognized how rare it is for a player to be identified entirely with one club in the free-agency era.
"Yeah, there definitely is [satisfaction] in that, especially with that organization," he said. "It's first-class. I definitely take a lot of pride in that, especially the way the game is."
Teammates were constantly entertained by Shields and his Type A personality. A man of constant movement and a knowledgeable fan of all sports, he rarely was found seated in the clubhouse.
"Fun guy, great teammate," former Angels outfielder Tim Salmon said. "He could pitch as many innings as you needed, it seemed like. He was one of those guys who was blessed with a great arm. Like Mike said, he was the gold standard."
Never comfortable addressing his own achievements, Shields didn't have much to say about Scioscia's reference to him as the "gold standard" for setup men.
"That's very nice of him to say that," Shields said. "I'm not commenting any further on that. That was kind of cool to hear."
He always felt his personality fit his role of setting up for the marquee closers.
"I had a pretty good chance to pitch in front of some of the best closers in the game," he said. "I was happy pitching in whatever role they asked."
While Game 7 of the 2002 World Series against the Giants stands alone among his most memorable moments in uniform, there were others.
He was especially fond of the occasion in 2004 when he joined K-Rod in a landmark achievement as bullpen mates with 100 strikeouts in a season.
"When I got the 100th strikeout in Seattle, I looked at Frankie and he was giving me thumbs up," Shields said. "That's something I'll always remember."
Shields had a 46-44 record and 3.18 career ERA, averaging 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings with a sinking fastball Salmon referred to as a "bowling ball," and a sharp-breaking curveball.
He expressed pride in his "ability to go out there every day" and the way he attacked hitters.
"I was loose on the mound with my attitude," he said, "but I didn't back down from anybody. I had some walks, but I came at you. `Here it is. Hit it.'"
Not many did. Over the course of his career, opponents batted .228 against him with a .335 slugging percentage in 697 innings pitched.
And what will he miss most?
"Ball in my hand, having a say in a Major League baseball game," Shields said. "That and the clubhouse chemistry, camaraderie."
He keeps in touch with his former Angels teammates through texting and plans to stay in their lives.
"They're my friends," he said. "I'm definitely going to keep in touch 10 years from now when Jered [Weaver] is still pitching. I'm going to stay in touch with them. Above everything, they're still friends. I'll be cheering for them."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.