Cooper confident in Shields moving forward

White Sox pitching coach admits right-hander needs to minimize mistakes

Cooper confident in Shields moving forward

CHICAGO -- The White Sox have James Shields under contract for two more seasons, barring the right-hander exercising an opt-out clause after the 2016 World Series or an offseason trade.

So there doesn't seem to be a major question surrounding whether Shields will be part of the South Siders' rotation moving forward. The question may be whether he can be a viable contributor. White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper has no doubt the answer is in the affirmative regarding the veteran hurler.

"It's in there," Cooper said. "We've got to bring more out. We've got to be able to stem the tide or minimize and find a way.

"... I don't know the right terminology. It's either good or bad. There's no in-between. There's no middle ground. We've got to find a way to make more pitches to keep us in the ballgame on the days he has not thrown well. Getting ahead and minimize mistakes is the way to do that."

Shields came to the White Sox from San Diego in exchange for right-handed pitcher Erik Johnson and Minor League infielder Fernando Tatis Jr. His first impression on the mound wasn't a good one, allowing 21 earned runs on 24 hits over 8 2/3 innings covering three starts.

That miserable open was followed by six straight quality starts from June 29 through the end of July, during which Shields beat the Cubs and held the Tigers and Yankees in check. Then, August began.

Including Friday night's lopsided loss against the A's, Shields has yielded 27 earned runs on 33 hits in 14 innings over four August starts. As Cooper said, there's no in-between with an individual the White Sox pegged as a third or fourth starter upon his acquisition.

"In this park, if you are using the down location to either side, you want to hit those spots or miss below," Cooper said. "If you are coming in on guys, lefty or righty, you want to get it in there or miss in. If you do that, to a large degree, you are eliminating mistakes up out over the plate which people get hurt on.

"Early it was he wasn't controlling the counts. He was falling behind and having to use part of the plate. Now it's just making too many mistakes. Too many mistakes with his pitches and leaving some up. This is a ballpark where balls go. So that's kind of it right now."

For the immediate future, Shields will get a chance to prove his value as a continuing part of the rotation.

"There's stuff there. You can see it. We've seen it," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He's having an off-period.

"This is a tough place to pitch, especially if you're not locating exactly where you want and guys put good swings on it. It's a small ballpark, and that's where you can get hurt the most, especially in the summer."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.