Notes: Uneventful start suits Sheets well
Fielder fine with contract renewal; Hall feels need for speed
PHOENIX -- Brewers righty Ben Sheets made a ho-hum Cactus League debut on Saturday. He allowed two San Francisco Giants runs on two hits and a walk in the first inning before working a scoreless, six-pitch second and threw 32 pitches, 22 for strikes.
It may be way too early to say Sheets is in the clear after an injury-plagued 2006, but at least it was an improvement over the last time he took the mound in a spring game.
Sheets was forced out of that March 9, 2006 start against Oakland with what the team first called "irritation" of a muscle in his upper back. Sheets tore the muscle -- the latissimus dorsi -- in an August 2005 start against Atlanta.
It turned out to be much more than an irritation. Sheets missed more than two months of the regular season with shoulder ailments.
"I felt better than I thought I would," Sheets said after his stint Saturday. He did not figure in a 12-8 Brewers loss. "I've felt a lot better the last three or four times I've thrown than the first six or seven, so that's really good."
He threw all fastballs and changeups, typical of Sheets' early spring starts. He downplayed a report that appeared earlier in the day saying he would rely more on the changeup this season.
"I ain't going to throw it any more than I did last year," Sheets said. "I may mix it in when I need it."
Of his curveball he said, "I know it's going to be there. When you start out, you have to get your fastball location, and I'm trying to get a feel for my changeup. I'm going to work hard to get that feel, even if I might only throw it one or two times in a game."
Manager Ned Yost was encouraged by Sheets' afternoon.
"Benny's got a plan," Yost said. "He puts it all together at the end of spring, and that's what he should do."
'Not personal at all:' Prince Fielder said he had no problem with the team's decision to renew his contract Friday. The team and Fielder's agent, Scott Boras, were unable to come to terms.
"That's fine. This is my team. I love these guys," Fielder said. "I've been here since I was 18. I'm not really focused on [contracts]; I let my agent take care of that. I don't let that stuff bother me on the field. I like being here, and I can't wait until the season starts."
Friday was the first day teams could renew contracts, at the salary of their choice, of players in their pre-arbitration years. Fielder earned $329,500 last season and will make $415,000 this year, but the process was complicated because the Major League minimum jumped from $327,000 to $380,000.
Teams try to avoid renewals because they sometimes lead to animosity later, when the player has more control of his salary demands. Fielder insisted that will not be the case.
"You know me. I'm not that kind of guy," he said. "I want to get out there and start playing."
He's been held up in that regard by a strained right quadriceps. Fielder was allowed to take batting practice on Saturday and expects to play in a game midway through next week.
"We knocked out the little tightness in there," Fielder said. "I'm listening to [the athletic trainers] and following all of their directions so I can get all the way better."
Running man: After center fielder Bill Hall left Saturday's game, he and first base coach Ed Sedar went to a back field to work on baserunning jumps. Hall will probably bat in the cleanup spot this season, and he stole just eight bases last season.
Does he plan to steal some bases in 2007?
"Yeah, a lot of them," said Hall, who will look for a swipe total in the 20s. "I wasn't going as much [last year]. Now, maybe they'll forget about me a little. They'll learn not to pretty quick."
High standards: The Brewers batted .402 in their first three Cactus League games, prompting Sedar to joke that new hitting coach Jim Skaalen should ask for a contract extension. Yost was in a joking mood, too.
"I told Skee, 'Our team batting average is .402, and I don't expect it to go much under .400 the whole year. So, whatever you're doing, keep it up,'" Yost said.
The team went 11-for-36 on Saturday, a paltry .380 average. All of the hits were singles.
Last call: Former Packers and current Broncos receiver Javon Walker was a guest of Brewers outfielder Geoff Jenkins on Saturday. Walker and some buddies visited with Jenkins, Sheets and other Brewers in the clubhouse. ... Infielder Craig Counsell took infield practice Saturday but has yet to play the field in a game. He has a sore shoulder but is on a throwing program and is expected to play the field in a game early next week, Yost said. ... Second baseman Rickie Weeks, who has been nursing a sore wrist, was allowed to swing away in Saturday's game. He went 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. ... Brewers sponsors were in town this weekend, and players joined them for lunch before Saturday's game. Owner Mark Attanasio watched his first Spring Training game. ... The new Chorizo racing sausage made its 2007 debut Saturday, when the team wore "Cerveceros" jerseys ("Brewers" in Spanish) as part of a promotion. The Chorizo is joining the sausage race at Miller Park this season.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.