CHICAGO -- Aaron Rowand was set to do an interview this week at U.S. Cellular Field, something he did hundreds of times with charismatic aplomb as a White Sox player. But first, Rowand had something to do.
"I want to find my cousin," Rowand said, quickly scanning the White Sox dugout and then the field.
Rowand's cousin is James Shields, also known as "Big Game James," who stands as the biggest in-season addition made by White Sox general manager Rick Hahn. Shields will play a major role in a potential second-half push to the postseason after getting things straight following a 10-26 plummet.
Shields came to the White Sox from San Diego after allowing 10 runs on eight hits over 2 2/3 innings against the Mariners in his final appearance for the Padres. He then yielded 21 earned runs over 8 2/3 innings during the first three starts for his new team.
According to White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, Shields eventually had sort of a "the heck with it" moment during a bullpen session between starts, described in a more colorful vernacular by Cooper. Shields has shown greater consistency in his last three starts, only giving up six earned runs in 17 2/3 innings.
"He was trying a little too hard -- he was trying to impress, new team, new guys -- instead of just going out and doing what he does," Rowand said. "I think he's settled in where he's comfortable."
"It's only a matter of time, I guess," Shields said. "But things are on the up and up."
Cooper believed that the real Shields "was in there somewhere," even during some tough times, but "the mental guy was choking the physical guy." Shields was overthinking, as well as rushing through his delivery and rushing through his balance.
"I'll say this, I've had more help trying to fix James Shields than everybody else combined in 14 years, getting it from everybody," Cooper said. "Those are four worse starts than anybody would ever have. They're nightmares for a guy.
"For him now to start fighting his way out of that shows a lot to me about who he is. I knew we were going to get him out, but I wasn't sure how quick it would happen. You always hope the sooner, the better."
Baseball took a step into high gear for Shields back when he joined Rowand in Las Vegas for intense offseason workouts in 2003. Now, Shields is a member of the White Sox rotation for what looks like the next three years, while Rowand is in his first season as the organization's Minor League outfield/baserunning coordinator.
Their mothers, who are sisters, must be proud.
"He's one of those guys that works so hard his whole entire career. He's [had] a tremendous impact on me," Shields said. "He told me how great this city was, how great the organization was from top to bottom."
"To see him out there wearing that uniform and pitching and doing well, he's a leader in the clubhouse, he's a great guy and a good pitcher," Rowand said. "Hopefully he can keep doing what he's been doing these last couple of starts and giving the team opportunities to win and climb back into it."