Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. — Scot Shields, the Angels’ highly efficient setup man for much of the last decade, announced his retirement Friday.
Shields, 35, suffered through a knee injury and arm pain in recent years, but from 2004 through 2008 he struck out 432 batters in 435 innings, setting up Francisco Rodriguez in the team’s dominant bullpen.
“He evolved into the gold standard of what setup men are,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. “He could’ve gone a lot of places and been a closer, but he was committed to this organization and this organization was committed to him.
“He accepted his role and became the best at it”
Since the “hold” statistic was created in 1999, no American League pitcher has more than Shields’ 155.
Shields said in a conference call with reporters that though he had an opportunity with another team to continue pitching, “Nothing seemed like the right fit. I had to talk myself into playing. I just didn’t have it. My mind has been made up for a while.”
Shields said he will fondly recall pitching in the 2002 World Series and joining Rodriguez as 100-strikeout relievers in 2005. He expressed no regret over never being a full-time closer.
“I didn’t back down from anybody,” he said. “I had some walks, but I was, ‘Here it is, hit it,’ and that attitude helped me out a lot.”
Second baseman Howie Kendrick filled in at first base Friday while the team continued to wait on the recovery of Kendrys Morales from last year’s fractured left leg.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve played [first] in the past and it’s all about getting some time,” Kendrick said. “We have a lot of guys who can step in there, but you want [Morales’] bat in there. You’re missing his power, hitting and defense.”
Morales didn’t try to run Friday and was in the trainer’s room lying on a table, having his left leg massaged and using an elastic band to stretch his ankle and muscles.
“There’s not much different” than Thursday, Scioscia said. “He’s being evaluated by the medical staff to see when he can continue his push. Right now, it’s a plateau.
“The last seven or eight days have been stagnant.”
As the Angels move toward the likelihood of an opener without Morales, veteran outfielder Torii Hunter said the heart of the order — Hunter, surrounded by Bobby Abreu and off-season acquisition Vernon Wells — can supply sufficient run production.
Abreu hit his first two homers of the spring Friday in a 7-6 victory against San Diego and Scioscia said he likes the idea of Abreu staying in the No. 3 spot until Morales returns.
“What can you do? This guy broke his leg, and whenever he feels good again, March 31 or May 1, we’ll take it on,” Hunter said. “Patience is the key. It’s not added pressure. This is my 14th season. I don’t care about pressure, we’ve just got to get ready to go.”