Could finding a comfort zone with the angle help resurrect a career that has seen Shields struggle since joining the Sox in a June 4, 2016, trade with the Padres?
"I hope so," Shields said. "At the end of the day, I'm going out there to fight every five days ... and kind of bulldog it out. That's how I pitch.
"As a veteran who has been doing it a long time, I have high expectations for myself every year. My goal is to get some wins for this ballclub."
General manager Rick Hahn has taken heat for acquiring Shields for a then-unknown teenager, infielder Fernando Tatis Jr., who has since blossomed into a top-10 prospect.
With hindsight having crystal-clear vision, Hahn instead focuses on the benefits Shields brings to the Sox.
"He plays a big role in our clubhouse," Hahn said. "A lot of these young pitchers will tell you stories about James spending time with them, whether it was in Charlotte while he was on rehab or in the last several weeks.
"From a between-the-lines standpoint, he's a veteran who knows on a certain day, we may need him to eat innings regardless of the results. He's willing to do what's best for the team and development of players around him. He found a degree of greater success with alteration of arm angle, and that will continue this year. He'll provide a stabilizing presence in our rotation."
Shields said he recognizes fans' frustrations "because I didn't get the job done last season," but that is not his major focus.
"I know what I need to do, and hopefully they embrace me," Shields said. "I work hard every five days. We're in this game for the fans, but I can't worry about all of that. I have to worry about my job on the field and get it done."
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