ST. PETERSBURG -- Two-hundred innings in a season remains one of the most endearing accomplishments any Major League pitcher can achieve.
Last season the Rays had three of their starters surpass 200 innings: James Shields, David Price and Matt Garza.
Shields, who has four consecutive 200-inning seasons in his rearview mirror, is well on his way to chalking up another one this season. After Saturday night's start against Boston he had pitched 148 2/3 innings.
One of Shields' main goals at the beginning of every season is to pitch 200-plus innings.
"It's important to me," Shields said. "Two-hundred innings means you're healthy and you're getting your team to the late innings with a chance to win. And you're saving the bullpen."
Price is right behind Shields for the team lead in innings pitched this season with 135, putting him right on track for consecutive 200-inning seasons.
"People want somebody who can come in and eat up innings," Price said. "That's what Shields has done the last four years -- getting 200 innings that many years in a row is pretty impressive. It really helps out the team."
Both pitchers should make at least 13 more starts this season. Based on that premise, Shields would accrue 245 innings if he continues to average 7.43 innings per start and Price would log 223 innings if he maintains his 6.75 innings per game pace.
"Believe me that's a concern, too," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That's just who they've been this year. Shieldsy's done it in a reasonable number of pitches. His average is about 105 or 106. David after Friday is like 109. I'd like to get that down to 107 or 108 by the end of the season. That would be great. Regardless of their innings pitched. Both have been relatively pitch efficient, especially Shieldsy."
Jeremy Hellickson and Wade Davis each have thrown 103 2/3 innings. So neither is likely to reach 200 innings this season, nor is Jeff Niemann, who missed time while on the disabled list. Every spring the starting staff's goal is to finish the season as a group with 1,000 innings.
"That's what we want to do," Price said. "That would be awesome to do."