ST. PETERSBURG -- How big is James Shields' return to Tampa Bay? Big enough that a press conference was held to accommodate all of the interview requests. Big enough that the Rays had a scoreboard video tribute to Shields on their in-game schedule.
Shields, after all, was a big part of the Tampa Bay franchise for seven years, winning 87 games and helping them into three postseasons including the 2008 World Series. Then last winter he was traded along with fellow pitcher Wade Davis and infielder Elliot Johnson to the Royals for four prospects.
Shields had seen the Rays in Kansas City in two games (the third was snowed out) earlier this season, but this was his first time at Tropicana Field as a visiting player.
"It was a little weird," Shields said. "I got to see Doug in Security. Just seeing all the guys has been great. I was kind of wishing I was going to pitch here, but, unfortunately, in a four-game series I'm missing it here. But I've got a lot of good memories here, a lot of happy times and a lot of good friends."
Shields is the only member of the Royals' rotation who will not pitch in this series. But he faced the Rays at home April 30 in Kansas City and beat them.
Before batting practice Thursday, Shields went onto the field where his Rays buddy, left-hander David Price, was pitching in a simulated game as he comes back from a triceps strain.
"I did step in against Price but only in his warmup pitches," Shields said. "I didn't take the bat off my shoulder, though. I want to keep my .333 average on the year."
Then he wandered around the field, talking to ex-teammates.
"I played with a lot of those guys for so many years, and you become good friends with them," Shields said. "And to come back and actually face them here in the dome is definitely a little different. But we're all friends in baseball. In between the lines, in the game, we're enemies, but when it comes down to it, I've built a lot of good relationships."
His best memory from his 12 years in the organization?
"Going to the World Series," he said. "That and winning my first game in the playoffs in Rays history was probably my best memory here. From where we came back in '07 and to do what we did in 2008 was very special. The whole entire city came together, and we were doing the Mohawks (haircuts) and the whole deal. That was a fun time."
Shields noted that with the Royals he had encountered the same family-type atmosphere that he enjoyed with the Rays.
"It's not too different; Ned [Yost] has been great," Shields said. "He's about as good a player's manager as you can get. He's really been positive all year long, and I think that's one of the reasons why, as of late, we've had success, because in the month of May we really didn't do too well, and we kind of stuck to the process and were really grinding it out. The guys are great in the clubhouse, and it's very similar to what we had over here."
Shields was working in some time outside Tropicana Field as well.
"I'm in the process of selling my house; I got an offer on it," Shields said. "But I wanted to go back and see my neighborhood. I've got some friends out here. The people in this community treated me and my family with the utmost respect. We have a place in our heart for this community, the fan base here, and the foster children here. Me and my wife were really big into that, and we're actually going to see one of the foster families while we're here."
His personal record is just 2-6 despite a 2.79 ERA. But he has helped the Royals to first place in American League ERA, just as he helped Tampa Bay have the best ERA last year.
"Unfortunately I haven't gotten a lot of wins, but my team has won the last three games I've been out, and that's all that really matters to me," he said.
Even though Shields is not pitching in this series, has he given the other four starters any tips about pitching to his old teammates?
"Hey, we're not going to let that cat out of the bag, know what I'm saying? Ask me that after the series is over," he said.
Rays-turned-Royals embrace return to Trop
ST. PETERSBURG -- Having ex-Rays Wade Davis and Elliot Johnson with him when he joined the Royals was a great help to James Shields.
"Having Wade and Elliot there has definitely made it easier," he said. "But these guys [the Royals] are so young, they want to win, they want to have fun and they made it easy. And definitely having Wade and Elliot here has made it great. We've just come in here with what we've always had -- a winning attitude -- and hopefully we can win a lot of ballgames here."
Davis was looking forward to having a meal with his old bullpen pal, Jake McGee. Davis was in the Rays' organization for nine years and spent four-plus seasons in the domed Tropicana Field.
"It's kind of a weird place; it takes a little while to warm up to a little bit, but I've always liked playing here and pitching here," Davis said. "A great atmosphere in general. It's a good stadium to pitch in. It's a pretty true ballpark. You've got to hit it to hit it out -- especially in center field. It's a fair game here."
Johnson spent 11 years in the Rays' system, mostly in the Minors, but he was with Tampa Bay in 2011-12.
"It's a little different, first time being on the visitors' side and being in the third-base dugout," Johnson said. "But I've been here plenty, and I was spreading the news about the field, obviously all the pitchers that they have and anything else anybody wants to know."
An infielder, Johnson was well-versed in the quirk about the third-base line.
"The third-base line is a little bit tricky," he said. "If you put a ball -- bunt, swing or whatever -- in between the line and the turf, it'll stay fair. But if you drop it on the turf, and it rolls off the turf toward the foul line, it's going foul every single time. Even if it's placed well."
One of Johnson's best buddies with the Rays was outfielder Sam Fuld.
"I probably need to send something over to Sammy," Johnson said. "I haven't thought of anything really good to do yet, but I'll get on it pretty soon. He'll have something in his locker before the series is over."
Watch out, Sam.
Royals' Cadahia has Major League first
ST. PETERSBURG -- Bench coach Chino Cadahia was seated in the visitors' dugout at Tropicana Field, talking to reporters about managing the Royals against the Rays on Thursday. He got the assignment because manager Ned Yost was in Georgia for his daughter's wedding.
Cadahia had managed in the Minor Leagues and in Puerto Rico and had taken over for Bobby Cox from 2007-10 in Atlanta whenever Cox was ejected from a game, which happened rather frequently. But Cadahia had never managed a big league game from the first pitch.
"This is my first," Cadahia said before the game. "I got a chance to manage in a few games with Bobby, but I never started one."
What if Cadahia were to be ejected in this game? Who would manage then?
"Well, we'll have a coin flip," Cadahia said. "It'll either be George or..."
"Get thrown out!" came a voice from the dugout rail. "Get thrown out!"
Yes, it was that George -- George Brett, the Royals' interim hitting coach.
Brett would be the acting bench coach Thursday.
"I've never been thrown out of a Major League game," Cadahia said. "So I don't expect that to happen today, but you never know."
Adcock grateful for time with Royals
ST. PETERSBURG -- Former Royals pitcher Nate Adcock was at his Kentucky home, packing for Reno.
That is where he will resume his career, pitching for the D-backs' Triple-A team in the Pacific Coast League. He was claimed on waivers by the D-backs on Thursday.
Adcock was designated for assignment last Thursday to make room on the 40-man roster for infielder Edinson Rincon.
Selected in the Rule 5 Draft from the Pirates in 2010, Adcock jumped from Class A Bradenton to Kansas City, where he spent the entire 2011 season.
"It was a big jump, but I just treated it just the same: 60 feet, 6 inches," he said. "The hitters are better, but the swings and misses aren't really different. Bigger stadiums, more fans, but I tried to treat it just the same and go out there and do my job."
He was 1-1 with a 4.62 ERA in 24 games (three starts).
"Not too many people in baseball get that opportunity, and I'm really grateful for it," Adcock said. "For what the Royals' organization did was make it possible for me to build a new home for me and my wife, Samantha."
Last year, he shuttled between Triple-A Omaha and Kansas City. In 12 games with the Royals, he was 0-3 but had a 2.34 ERA. This year he was 3-4 with a 7.09 ERA in 10 games for Omaha.
"It started good, and I felt confident," he said. "My last five starts, or whatever it was, have been kind of a struggle.
"I'm really happy and really excited about the new opportunity with the Diamondbacks. I'm going to pitch on Sunday, but I'm not sure if its relief or a start, but we'll see, and whatever it is, I'm going to take it and run with it."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.