Two key parts in the Royals-Rays blockbuster trade in 2012 face off on the mound Monday.
Kansas City's James Shields and Tampa Bay's Jake Odorizzi are set to open a three-game series at Tropicana Field.
In 2012, Shields and Wade Davis were dealt to the Royals for a handful of prospects, including Odorizzi. Kansas City farmhands Wil Myers, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard also came over to Tampa Bay.
"He should get a nice ovation for all the great work he's done [at Tropicana Field] in the past," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Shields. "He helped us become the Rays. He helped, big-time, in the transformation, and not just what he did on the field. What he did among the young pitchers, he was a great leader for the pitching staff."
Monday will be the first time that two of the pitchers involved in the trade start a game against each other.
"A lot of good memories there," Shields said. "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."
Shields enters the start persevering through one of the roughest stretches that he's endured in his two seasons with Kansas City.
During his last four starts, Shields has surrendered 17 runs (16 earned) in 25 innings on 40 hits. He's only notched 14 strikeouts in this span.
Away from Kauffman Stadium, Shields has been lackluster of late. He holds a 6.75 ERA in his last five road outings. His road woes have been isolated to the last month as five of Shields' six April starts came on the road and he posted a 2.02 ERA in that month.
Shields comes off his fourth loss of the year on Tuesday, when the Twins thumped the Royals in a 10-2 win at Target Field. He allowed five runs (four earned), nine hits and two walks in five innings. Shields dropped to 8-4, while his ERA rose to 3.93.
"There's no level of concern," Royals 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."
Odorizzi's first full season in a starting rotation has been a mixed bag. His ERA (4.18) and WHIP (1.347) do nothing to excite, but his 101 strikeouts in 88 1/3 innings are a different story. That's a 10.3 strikeout per nine ratio that ranks sixth among MLB starters with at least 80 innings.
In regard to the matchup with Shields, Odorizzi said it will be a bigger deal for the fans -- and maybe would've been for Myers, if the right fielder wasn't on the disabled list -- than for him.
"It doesn't do anything for me -- I'm not facing him. So it is what it is. I guess it's going to be a good story line," Odorizzi said.
"Probably [it would be for Myers], because he actually would get to face [Shields]. So that would be a bigger story for you guys to write about, but he ruined it."
Pitch efficiency appears to be the only thing holding Odorizzi back at the moment. Twelve of his 17 starts have lasted fewer than six innings, and only twice has he worked into the eighth inning this season.
The righty enjoyed a solid month of June, when his ERA deflated nearly a full point (5.13 to 4.14). The highlight of the month was a 10-strikeout, one-hit shutout of the Astros. Odorizzi lasted 7 1/3 innings of the 8-0 win on June 21.
The 22-year-old Odorizzi has some staggering home/road splits. In 50 innings at Tropicana, he owns a 2.70 ERA, 1.080 WHIP and 11.0 K/9. In 38 innings in road starts, his ERA sits at 6.10.
Royals: Ibanez showing flexibility
Newly acquired outfielder Raul Ibanez made a start in left field on Sunday.
Ibanez, who will normally play right field for the Royals, filled in for Alex Gordon, and finished 0-for-4 in Kansas City's 4-1 loss to the Indians.
In Ibanez's four games with the Royals, he's started in right field three times and left field once. At the plate, he's 3-for-16 with a home run.
Rays: Keep it going at home
After having a successful road trip, the Rays return to Tropicana Field hoping to keep the conga line going.
"We go home and we've got two really good teams again, Kansas City and Toronto, and once again the objective is going to be to win the series," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's very simple. Of course you'd like to do better than that, but if you win these series, I'll take it going into the break."
The Rays went 9-2 on their road trip, which concluded with a 7-3 win over the Tigers spearheaded by David Price, Tampa Bay's lone 2014 All-Star representative. On the trip, the Rays took three of four games from the Orioles and Tigers and swept the Yankees three straight. At 41-50, they are now out of the AL East basement, a half-game ahead of Boston.
• Rays pitcher Cesar Ramos and his wife, Melanie, celebrated the birth of their first child Saturday. Adison Lynn Ramos weighed in at 6 pounds, 15 ounces. The left-hander is expected to be back with the team Monday night.
• In Saturday's 7-2 win over the Tigers, Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier tied a team record with two triples, becoming the sixth Ray to do so, and the second rookie.
• The Royals' Mike Moustakas extended his hitting streak to a season-high five games on Sunday with a solo home run, his second blast in as many days.
Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.