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Control problems force Angels pitcher Scot Shields to back of bullpen

April 21, 2010 |  5:50 pm

Scot Shields entered this season hoping to regain the setup job he had with the Angels from 2004-2008, a five-year period in which the right-hander was one of baseball's most durable and dependable relievers.

For now, he'll have to be happy with a mop-up role.

Shields' control problems have become so severe that Manager Mike Scioscia, speaking before Wednesday night's game against the Detroit Tigers, said he will "try to get him some innings right now to get a feel, where the game [situation] is not crucial."

Shields, who missed most of 2009 because of left-knee surgery, entered the seventh inning of Tuesday night's game with a four-run lead and walked the bases loaded, throwing one pitch to the backstop and nearly beaning two Tigers batters. He threw 26 pitches, 15 of them balls. He has faced 22 batters this season, walking seven and retiring 10. His earned-run average is 16.20.

The pitcher was not available after Tuesday night's game, a 6-5 Angels victory, and he was in no mood to discuss his struggles Wednesday.

"I'm not really talking about it," Shields said when approached by reporters. "I stunk, period."

Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher met with Shields on Wednesday.

"His velocity is fine, he's healthy and his breaking ball is terrific," Scioscia said. "We're trying to get him locked in. It's a release-point issue."

This is nothing new for Shields, who has what Scioscia calls a "high-maintenance delivery." Even during some of his finest seasons with the Angels, he would go through stretches in which he couldn't find the strike zone.

Several times in the past, the Angels have shut down Shields to give him four or five days to iron out his mechanics, but with short relievers Fernando Rodney and Kevin Jepsen each pitching in five of the team's last seven games -- and probably unavailable Wednesday night -- Scioscia doesn't have that luxury right now.

"We're not there yet," Scioscia said. "We could revisit that. ... This is not a situation to shut him down and get him into an instructional environment. He's healthy. It's going to take a little work, but he'll find it."

-- Mike DiGiovanna