James Shields notches fourth shutout in win over Royals

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James Shields beat the Royals 4-0 in one hour, 53 minutes on Tuesday night, notching his fourth shutout of the season.

The six-hitter was the fastest nine-inning contest in Rays franchise history.

Shields moved into a tie with the Rangers’ Derek Holland for the most shutouts in the AL this year.  Cliff Lee is the major league leader with five.

It was also Shields’ major league-best eighth complete game of the year.  Roy Halladay is second with six, while Lee is the only other pitcher with five.

Of course, this year is shaping up as a banner year for shutouts.  Shields and Holland have already matched the high total for an AL starter since 2000.  Lee has matched the high total for any pitcher the last 20 years.  The last pitcher to record more than five shutouts in a season was Randy Johnson, who had six with the Mariners and Astros in 1998.

Even last season, the supposed “year of the pitcher,” saw just two AL pitchers record multiple shutouts: Dallas Braden and Carl Pavano finished with two shutouts apiece.  Halladay led the majors with four.

With eight complete games, Shields also has a pretty good shot at becoming the first pitcher to reach double figures since Johnson finished with 12 in 1999.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.