ST. PETERSBURG -- James Shields established himself as one of the American League's best pitchers in 2011. Tuesday, the recognition for his performance came from the Baseball Writers' Association of America in a third-place finish in the AL Cy Young Award voting.
Ahead of Shields in the voting were right-handers Justin Verlander of the Tigers and Jered Weaver of the Angels, who finished first and second, respectively.
"I'm really excited," Shields said. "At the beginning of the year, I thought I would have a good year after I put in a lot of hard work during the offseason. I didn't expect to have as good a year as I did, but there was a lot of hard work put into it, so it's nice to see the results."
Verlander, who won the Triple Crown of pitching by leading the AL in victories (24), ERA (2.40) and strikeouts (250), was a unanimous winner. He received all 28 first-place votes for a total of 196 points.
2011 AL CY YOUNG AWARD VOTING
Voting results for AL Cy Young Award as conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America
"Obviously, Verlander, what a tremendous year he had -- unbelievable year," Shields said. "Everybody felt he would be unanimous. And you've got to give him a ton of credit. The guy went out there every fifth day and took care of his job. I mean, 24 wins -- you can't do any better than that. And he worked really hard as well. So congratulations to Verlander for winning it."
Shields, who went 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA, 225 strikeouts, 11 complete games and four shutouts, received five second-place votes, nine third-place votes, eight fourth-place votes and three fifth-place votes en route to a point total of 66.
"I thought it was incredible," Verlander said of Shields' 11 complete games. "That's just amazing. Me and some of the guys, some of the other starting pitchers on our team, we would comment every time he did it. It's like, 'Oh my gosh, he threw another one.' He did it without having to throw 150 pitches every day, which is great. He's a guy that can pitch to contact. He's got that great changeup that gets guys out front, gets them to roll over, gets a lot of double plays. Those are all things that you need to be able to do what he did this year."
Weaver (18-8, 2.41 ERA, four complete games, two shutouts) was the only other pitcher named on each ballot and accrued 97 points en route to his second-place finish. Shields was followed by Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.00 ERA, 230 K's) and Tigers reliever Jose Valverde (2-4, 2.24 ERA, 49 saves). In all, 11 pitchers received votes.
"Those guys all had phenomenal years," said Shields. "I think this year was really kind of the year of the pitcher. There were a lot of guys under a 3.00 ERA and a lot of guys who just had phenomenal years. So just to be up there with all of those guys is pretty special."
The BBWAA, a professional association for baseball journalists writing for daily newspapers, magazines and qualifying websites, is responsible for voting on several awards annually, including the Most Valuable Player Award, Rookie of the Year Award, Cy Young Award and Manager of the Year Award. The BBWAA conducts its voting prior to the beginning of the postseason.
Shields' third-place finish in the voting is rivaled only by David Price's second-place finish in 2010, which stands as the highest by a Rays pitcher in team history.
"I'll tell you what, I'm excited for our team, too," Shields said. "Last year, Price was No. 2, and this year I come in at three, so I think the Rays' pitching staff is starting to put a little bug in people's ears, especially the writers, about how good we are as a staff. So that's good to have."
The senior member of the Rays' rotation, Shields was named to his first All-Star team in 2011 en route to his best Major League season. The Rays have exercised his $7 million option for '12. That option had already swelled to $7.5 million based on him reaching incentives for innings thrown the past three seasons. By finishing in the top five of the Cy Young Award balloting, that option increased another $500,000 to where he will now earn $8 million in '12.
Shields surpassed 200 innings for the fifth consecutive season in 2011, logging the highest number of innings of his career with 249 1/3 while making 33 regular-season starts. He makes no bones about it -- his offseason training has enabled him to have that kind of durability.
Already he has begun the torturous workouts that have earned him his reputation.
"Every year, I'm trying to add something new to my offseason regimen," Shields said. "I'm going to sit down and evaluate everything that I need to do and everything that was successful for me this year -- mix it all in together. Every year, you have to change something. There's always something you can do to improve."
Of course, one difference between this offseason and the one that followed the 2010 season will be the work he does on his mechanics. Shields' '10 season saw him go 13-15 with a 5.18 ERA and no complete games, prompting him to address his mechanics. Fortunately for Shields and the Rays, he figured it all out during the offseason and reaped the benefits during '11. So this offseason, Shields won't be looking to find something he'd lost, he'll be working to maintain what he found.
"I felt really good as far as mechanics," Shields said. "The base is there, so now that I know what I need to get down, I'll work on getting that muscle memory ready for next season in my offseason workouts."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.