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Age, not rust, appears to be catching up with Angels reliever Scot Shields

April 15, 2010 |  4:30 pm

Scot Shields was named setup man of the decade by Sports Illustrated, but the veteran right-hander does not appear close to regaining the setup job with the Angels. That eighth-inning role will likely go to Kevin Jepsen, who had to bail out Shields from an eighth-inning mess in Wednesday's 5-3 victory over the New York Yankees.

Nine of the last 13 batters Shields has faced in his last three appearances have reached base, and the velocity of his fastball, in the 93-94-mph range before he underwent season-ending left-knee surgery last June, is a few ticks off, hovering in the 91-92-mph range. Shields has allowed six runs, three of them earned, in his last three games and has a 10.13 earned-run average in four games on the season.

With a 5-1 lead in the eighth inning Wednesday, Shields walked No. 9 batter Brett Gardner and gave up an infield single to Derek Jeter. Nick Johnson capped a nine-pitch at-bat with a run-scoring single, and Manager Mike Scioscia summoned Jepsen, who snuffed out the rally.

"I feel like I'm throwing the ball all right -- I just have to locate better," Shields said. "I'm not throwing as hard as I used to, but I feel good. I have good movement, especially Wednesday. I just couldn't spot it where I wanted to."

Asked if he felt some rust after missing most of 2009, or if he normally works into his velocity early in the season, Shields said, "No, I think everyone slows down."

You mean Shields, the 34-year-old with the reputation as one of baseball's most durable and dependable relievers, is getting old?

"I'm not getting old," Shields said. "I am old."

--Mike DiGiovanna in New York