Scot Shields and the possibility of early panic attacks

If you followed the Angels closely early last season, you probably had some struggles when you contemplated the bullpen. As Bill Plunkett of the OC Register noted, it was that faulty wheel on the shopping cart that kept slamming the thing into the canned goods.

This season was supposed to a different story, with Fernando Rodney bringing his high-90s heat from Detroit and Scot Shields coming back from knee surgery.

But a conversation I had with Shields leads me to believe he's not quite as ready to go as many people had hoped. Shields hasn't thrown off a mound all winter and he doesn't know when he'll be able to do so this spring. Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 17, otherwise known as a week from Wednesday.

Shields is predicting he'll be ready to go by Opening Day. Maybe he will, and many Angels fans would love nothing more than to see a healthy No. 62 baffling hitters again. He's the only remaining link with the 2002 team other than Manager Mike Scioscia and a couple of coaches.

I've also covered Shields long enough to have seen him put his body through wear and tear that would have ended many (most?) pitchers' careers. He never had a catchy nickname like, "Everyday Eddie," but he took the ball virtually every night. People always said he had a rubber arm, but his knee apparently was made of the same stuff as ours. If Shields, 35, no longer can pitch at the pre-2009 level, the Angels might be back to where they were a year ago, scraping along the aisles and bumping into the produce.