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Royals-Rays Preview

AP - Sports

James Shields last pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays two years ago, but he still holds many of their individual records.

Now, he'll take the mound at Tropicana Field for the first time as a visitor.

Shields makes his return to St. Petersburg on Monday night as his Kansas City Royals open this three-game series by trying to defeat Jake Odorizzi, one of the players dealt for the right-hander in the winter of 2012.

Shields (8-4, 3.93 ERA) spent his first seven seasons with the Rays, helping lead them to the 2008 AL pennant.

Despite being sent to Kansas City in a seven-player trade in December 2012, Shields still stands as Tampa Bay's all-time leader in wins (87), strikeouts (1,250), complete games (19) and shutouts (eight).

"A lot of good memories there," Shields told MLB's official website. "I haven't set foot on the mound (at Tropicana) since I got traded, so it's pretty exciting to go back and pitch on that field.

"It'll feel a little weird when I'm warming up, but once I get on the mound, I'll be good to go. It'll be just another game, trying to win a ballgame."

The Royals (45-42) have lost each of the last three times with Shields on the mound, and he's 0-1 with a 6.16 ERA. He threw 113 pitches in five innings Tuesday at Minnesota, giving up five runs and nine hits in a 10-2 loss.

Shields is 1-1 with a 6.94 ERA in his past four road starts.

"There's no level of concern," manager Ned Yost said. "That's the wrong word. He's just not sharp right now. He's going through a pretty extended little streak - four starts or so - where he hasn't been exceptionally sharp."

Shields was impressive in his only career start against his former club, yielding two runs with seven strikeouts in seven innings of an 8-2 home victory April 30, 2013.

He'd like a little more support than Kansas City provided for Danny Duffy on Sunday. The Royals were held to four hits in a 4-1 loss at Cleveland, dropping the final two of that three-game set.

It's unclear if the Royals will have Alex Gordon and Billy Butler back in the lineup after their recent struggles earned them a spot on the bench in the finale.

Gordon is headed to the All-Star game in Minneapolis on July 15 with catcher Salvador Perez and closer Greg Holland, but the left fielder is mired in a 3-for-40 slump that's dropped his average 28 points to .263.

Butler is 3 for 26 in his last six games after hitting .391 over the previous 17. The designated hitter is batting .389 with nine RBIs in his past nine meetings with the Rays (41-50), while Gordon has a .339 average in 16.

Gordon is also 2 for 4 versus Odorizzi (4-7, 4.18), connecting for a three-run shot in a 7-3 win at Kansas City on April 9.

The right-hander was charged with that loss, surrendering seven runs and 10 hits over five innings in his first start against his former team. He allowed two runs in 3 1-3 innings of relief in a 10-1 home loss June 13, 2013.

Odorizzi enters this start 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA over his last three, yielding three runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 6-3 road win over the New York Yankees on Wednesday.

He may be looking to draw some inspiration from David Price's performance in Sunday's 7-3 win at Detroit. The Rays' lone All-Star allowed three runs in 8 2-3 innings as the Rays capped an 8-1 trip.

Ben Zobrist is 8 for 15 in his last three games, but he's 5 for 32 in his past 10 at home. He's also 0 for 3 versus Shields.

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