Scot Shields’ early-season struggles continue

The reliever Sports Illustrated named its setup man of the decade is the Angels’ mop-up man of the moment.

Scot Shields’ control problems have gotten so bad that Manager Mike Scioscia said the veteran right-hander “needs some innings that are not going to be crucial, where he can go out there and get a feel for his release point.”

Shields, who missed most of the 2009 season 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 hitting two Tigers batters.

He threw 26 pitches, 15 of them balls, and the runners he allowed eventually scored. He has faced 22 batters this season, walking seven and retiring 10. His earned-run average in five games: 16.20.

Shields was not available after Tuesday night’s 6-5 win and was in no mood to discuss his struggles Wednesday.

“I’m not really talking about it,” Shields said when he was 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 has been terrific,” Scioscia said. “He’s trying to get … locked in and pitching the way he can. It’s a release-point issue right now. He’s going to work hard and hopefully get it.”

Even during his finest seasons, Shields, who has what Butcher calls a “complicated delivery,” went through stretches during which he could not find the strike zone.

The Angels would usually shut down Shields for four or five days so he could iron out his mechanical problems in the bullpen. But with relievers Fernando Rodney and Kevin Jepsen pitching in five of the last seven games through Tuesday — and probably unavailable Wednesday night — Scioscia doesn’t have that luxury now.

“We’re not there yet,” Scioscia said. “It’s a tool we’ve used, and if we have to, we’ll revisit it. … Nobody feels it’s the time to shut him down and get him in an instructional environment and try to figure some things out. He’s healthy. His arm feels great. It’s going to take a little bit of work. But he’ll find it.”

Closing time

Despite allowing one hit in five innings and converting five save opportunities in seven days, Rodney returned to a setup role Wednesday when closer Brian Fuentes (back strain) was activated off the disabled list.

“I know when I signed here, this would be my role, the setup man for Brian Fuentes,” Rodney said. “I’ll be the same way. I think the eighth inning is just as important, because you come in with the game on the line, and you have to keep the lead for the closer.”

Fuentes didn’t lose his job to injury, but he will have to pitch effectively to keep it.

“Fernando will get his save opportunities when Brian is not available,” Scioscia said. “We’ll monitor this and see where it goes.”

Short hops

With his 350th career stolen base Tuesday night, Bobby Abreu is the only active player with at least 350 stolen bases and 250 home runs. Five other players in major league history have reached both marks: Rickey Henderson, Joe Morgan, Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonds and Craig Biggio.

Times staff writer Baxter Holmes contributed to this report.