Sheets up, down in six-inning Minors stint

Sheets up, down in six-inning Minors stint

PHOENIX -- Ben Sheets' journey to Opening Night made a pit stop at Minor League camp on Thursday.

No need to worry about any setbacks.

Sheets was simply there to ensure six innings of work in what manager Bob Geren called a "controlled environment" at the A's Papago Park.

As a result, the right-handed starter threw 85 pitches while scattering nine hits -- including a home run -- three runs, one walk and three strikeouts in six frames against the Giants' Triple-A team. Sheets wasn't too thrilled with his performance, but he rarely is around this time of year and never puts much stock into spring outings.

"I felt good," Sheets offered. "It wasn't as crisp as last time, but it's a work in progress. My focus was a little broader, and I don't think my fastball had the same zip. It's a different environment, too."

Almost all of the nine hits were hard hit, and the righty said five of them must have come off what he called a "terrible" changeup he'd like to forget altogether. Aside from that, though, Sheets felt confident in his curveball and even more satisfied in lasting six frames.

"That was the goal," Sheets said. "There was a reason I came over here, to get up and down six times. That's how you build strength."

Sheets has one more spring outing, in which he hopes to again throw 85-90 pitches, before taking the mound in Oakland against Seattle on April 5. Despite posting another batch of forgettable Spring Training numbers, Sheets and Geren are confident in his ability to head the rotation this year.

"I think he's gotten better every time out, and he feels good," Geren said. "His velocity has been consistent, and he's been happier with his breaking ball each time he's gone out."

Jane Lee is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.