The truth is that James Shields has not done much for the Royals. Not on the field, anyway. He’s thrown a total of four innings, 51 pitches, none of them curveballs. The Royals have $21 million and the tantalizing talent of Wil Myers riding on Shields being the reason they win real games instead of these fake ones.

So, basically, what we’re seeing on the field so far is the equivalent of a nice and limber pregame stretch. What we’re hearing in the clubhouse is something entirely different.

“It’s night and day,” Billy Butler says, “from where the pitching staff was to where it is now.”

The Royals limped through a hugely disappointing season in 2012, largely blamable on one of the worst starting rotations in recent baseball history. What the Royals’ starters lacked in ability to eat up innings, they made up for by surrendering gobs and gobs of runs in those innings.

You know that Shields is the centerpiece of a complete rotation makeover. He is the Royals’ best pitcher since Zack Greinke, a guy you can call a No. 1 starter without snickering. This is like replacing one of those old tube televisions with a newer model, stale milk with a fresh carton or, come to think of it, Matt Cassel with Alex Smith.