4/24/2013 7:00 P.M. ET
Shields focused on start, not aces matchup
Royals right-hander set to face Verlander, Tigers Thursday at Comerica
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
DETROIT -- This is the kind of pitching matchup that the Royals had in mind when they obtained James Shields to head their rotation: Shields versus Detroit ace Justin Verlander.
That's what is scheduled to take place on Thursday afternoon in currently cold and damp Detroit.
Shields, though, insists he's taking it pretty much as any other game he pitches.
"I think if I was making my debut or something or if I was a rookie, I'd be looking more into it," Shields said. "But I feel that it's the same day as every five days. I go out there and pitch my game and try to win the ballgame. I don't think of it too much different than that."
Kansas City fans, though, are undoubtedly getting revved up about the pitching pairing and,because of a late television decision, they'll be able to see it.
FOX Sports Kansas City has added Thursday afternoon's Royals-Tigers game to its schedule. Pregame coverage starts at 11:30 a.m. CT and the first pitch from Verlander is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. The telecast will make up for Tuesday night's rained-out game.
Shields has a formidable task. Few Royals pitchers have prevailed when going against Verlander. His career record against the Royals is 15-2 with a 2.73 ERA in 23 games. Verlander last lost to them in 2009.
While with Tampa Bay, Shields faced the Tigers nine times and he did well against them with a 5-1 record and 3.66 ERA. He was also effective at Comerica Park: 3-0 and a 2.74 ERA in four starts. That included a one-inning, late-season start in 2008, as the Rays set up their playoff rotation.
"I've always been that type of guy that it doesn't matter who's facing me. It really doesn't matter to me. I just look at their hitters and what I need to do against their hitters and there are some things you just can't control, and I need to focus on the things I can control," Shields said.
"You've got to be careful with these guys, they've got a good lineup. And you've got to go out there and try to do it."
In fact, several of the Tigers have given Shields a workout, notably Miguel Cabrera, who's hitting .500 (13-for-26) against him but with just one home run. Others: Jhonny Peralta, .455 (10-for-22, three homers and eight RBIs); Victor Martinez, .368 (7-for-19) and Torii Hunter, .313 (10-for-32).
The Royals' one big success story against Verlander is Billy Butler, who is 21-for-53 (.396) with two homers and nine RBIs.
Royals preparing to play, weather or not
DETROIT -- After a rainout on Tuesday night and threatening weather throughout Wednesday, the Royals were doing a lot of talking about the weather -- even if they couldn't do anything about it.
"I think what's frustrating for me is, we're playing good and these are the times you want to play," right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "I think Billy [Butler] said it best yesterday -- it's tough to get in an offensive groove. For a position player, when you don't see pitching for days, it's tough. But I give a lot of credit to our team; I feel like we've maintained focus and got our work done."
Before Tuesday night's washout, the Royals did get in both early batting practice and their normal pregame round.
"At least we got our work in," Francoeur said. "It wasn't like Boston where we didn't go to the field. So when we play [Wednesday night], it's going to be cold. It's not going to be a lot of fun. But we've got to try to find a way to win these games. For us the good news is when we get home, and I looked at the weather, it's going to be pretty nice. Kansas City is supposed to be all right."
Tuesday night's rainout was the Royals' first postponement because of weather -- they had one because of the Boston manhunt, subsequently made up in last Sunday's doubleheader. But the Royals still had seven non-playing days in the first 23 days of their season.
Before the weather cleared a bit on Wednesday evening, the prospects did not look promising.
"I got up, got a cup of coffee and I called [wife] Catie about noon and I looked out the window and said, 'You won't believe this but it's snowing right now,'" Francoeur said. "And she's down in Atlanta where it's 75 degrees. And she said, 'You ought to come down here and play.' And you think about it, the two best days we've had all season were those two games in Atlanta."
As game time approached on Wednesday, the temperature was 37 degrees.
"To me, the toughest thing about that is for pitchers, it's gripping the ball; for hitters, it's just being able to feel the bats in your hands," Francoeur said. "Sometimes, standing in the outfield you don't get any action at all and your hands are getting cold and the wind's blowing on you. It's not easy, you've got to be able to block it out. This is a time when as a hitter, you can't try to do too much. ... You just try to make good contact and drive the ball up the middle."
For catcher Salvador Perez, accustomed to the warm weather of Venezuela, this chilly April has not been easy.
"We have to play but everything is difficult," Perez said. "You can't feel the ball in your hand. But we have to do the best we can do."
Francoeur's idea of blocking out the cold just brought a smile to Perez.
"You can't forget it," Perez said. "You feel it, how can you forget about it?"
Kauffman Stadium set with At the Ballpark app
DETROIT -- Fans can begin upgrading seats or access personalized experiences through MLB.com's At The Ballpark app starting on Friday, when the Royals return to Kauffman Stadium for a 10-game homestand. The free app is for iPhone, iPod touch and Android smartphones.
After downloading the app, fans can select "Kauffman Stadium" as their venue and fulfill the experience they are looking for. Included is the ability to upgrade seats in a partnership of the Royals and the fan experience technology company Experience (www.findexp.com).
Experience and MLB Advanced Media are working together in participating ballparks.
Fans can visit www.royals.com/upgrade to download the app, sign up for alerts when upgrades are available and learn more about the program.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.