Shields remains on track to start after rainout

CHICAGO -- James Shields will begin his attempt at a rebound season a day later than previously scheduled, thanks to Wednesday's rainout. By contrast, Matthew Boyd's push for a potential breakout season will begin a couple days earlier than expected.

The Tigers and White Sox were rained out Wednesday, turning their season-opening series into a two-game set at Guaranteed Rate Field. But while the veteran Shields stayed on assignment, the Tigers moved up Boyd from his originally scheduled start Saturday to Thursday, unleashing their promising young lefty against a free-swinging White Sox lineup that struck out 10 times on Opening Day against Justin Verlander. It's a surprise move, but Boyd has been surprising for a while now.

Boyd entered Spring Training trying to prove he deserved a spot in Detroit's rotation. He ended up posting arguably the best pitching performance of Tigers camp, from a 23-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio -- and the walk didn't come until his final outing -- to a lone run allowed over his final 18 innings. Boyd didn't allow a home run in 25 2/3 spring innings.

"Mentally, I have more confidence in my whole game," Boyd said last week, "working on it with [catchers] Alex [Avila] and James [McCann] and [pitching coach Rich] Dubee, using all my pitches with the mechanics that I learned at the end of the year last year. Just going out there and believing, knowing you belong, and going out there and attacking, being the one that throws the first punch."

For that, the Tigers made the call to Boyd and put veteran Anibal Sanchez, under contract for $16.8 million, in the bullpen. It marked the first time Boyd made an Opening Day roster.

"I'm very grateful to be in this rotation," Boyd said. "It's something you dream about, to be able to jog out on Opening Day and they announce your name."

While Boyd begins his third season in the Majors, Shields beings the third year of the four-year, $75 million deal he signed with San Diego. The Padres traded him last June to the White Sox, who were hoping he could shore up their rotation for a playoff run. Instead, he went 4-12 with a 6.77 ERA with Chicago, surrendering 31 home runs over 114 1/3 innings. Opponents lifted the ball more often against him after the trade to Chicago, with an average launch angle of 14.1 degrees compared to 10.1 degrees while with San Diego, according to Statcast.

Shields had two quality starts and two stinkers against Detroit last year, compiling an 0-2 record and a 6.55 ERA in 22 innings.

Things to watch for in the game
• Keep an eye on who bats second in the Tigers' batting order, in front of Miguel Cabrera. While Ausmus has committed to batting Nicholas Castellanos there against left-handed starters, he has been noncommittal against righties. Castellanos is 1-for-16 with six strikeouts for his career against Shields, but he crushed two balls at an exit velocity of 107.9 mph off Jose Quintana in Tuesday's season opener.

• Tigers left fielder Justin Upton is day to day with a left knee contusion suffered in Tuesday's season opener. He got a day off thanks to Wednesday's rainout.

• Left-hander Blaine Hardy is joining the Tigers' bullpen to fill in for fellow lefty Kyle Ryan, who has been placed on the paternity leave list for the next few days.

• One big reason from Statcast for the damage off Shields last year: Opponents hit .361 (56-for-155) with 12 home runs off his cutter, a higher homer total than he allowed off his fastball (11).

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.