SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Wonder how new Royals pitcher James Shields managed to pry uniform No. 33 from Jeremy Guthrie, who wore it last year? Let's check with Guthrie.
"It's a family policy, we're not commenting on any of the negotiations that occurred. Just rest assured, he has No. 33 and I have No. 11," Guthrie said slyly.
Hmmm. Research shows that Guthrie is a real number-jumper. He's had at least six in his Major League career, sometimes switching to accommodate another player. Only once did he request a number -- 15 with the Rockies.
"I was given 53 when I was called up [by Cleveland] in '04, then they signed Arthur Rhodes and I was given 36 in the spring. The next year they signed Paul Byrd and I was given 57," Guthrie recalled. "I was released, claimed off waivers by the Orioles and was given 46 and wore that for five years. Traded to Colorado, I asked for 15; traded here, I was given 33. They got James Shields, he wanted 33, I was given 11."
Eleven is a rather unusual double digit for a pitcher.
"There are few of 'em -- Clay Buchholz, [Jarrod] Parker and [Yu] Darvish. You could make a nice rotation of 11s," Guthrie said.
We're beginning to suspect Guthrie is a numbers geek. When the rare single digit for a pitcher was mentioned, he rattled off three -- Josh Towers (7), Kyle Drabek (4) and Alex White (6).
Anyway, Shields explained that he'd worn No. 33 since his Hart High School days in California. "It's important to me," he said. And he knew that Guthrie had no strong attachment to it.
"If he cared about it and it was his favorite number, I wouldn't even have asked him," Shields said.
OK, so what was the price that Shields had to pay for the coveted number?
"I've got to take him out to McDonald's and get him a Big Mac and french fries," Shields said. "He's not a guy you have to please too much."