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Sheets bringing it all together

Sheets bringing it all together

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- Ben Sheets has been known to work fast now and then, but this was a more rapid pace than even the Brewers right-hander typically maintains.

"It was hot. It was really hot," Sheets jokingly explained following his impressive showing against the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday afternoon at Peoria Stadium.

Heat came from other sources besides the sun. The Brewers ace, in his most encouraging outing of the spring, blanked the Mariners on two singles in five innings and did not walk a batter.

"I'm getting there," Sheet said. "I was throwing pretty good today. The curveball was better, changeup was actually pretty good. [The fastball] is getting very close, actually. It was better, it was down, it wasn't necessarily located great, but it was down and had some good finish to it so I'm pleased with that."

Most importantly of all, the right shoulder that had sent Sheets to the disabled list twice last season was obviously strong enough to ace this significant test.

Sheets, who has made six trips to the disabled list since 2001, said his shoulder felt good.

"I'm getting better every time out, and getting close to being ready," Sheets said. "I'm on a normal pace, the normal routine I've always been in, except for the last two years when I've come in hurt."

The right-hander threw 64 pitches, including 40 strikes. Thirty-one of his final 44 pitches were strikes. He held Seattle regulars Ichiro Suzuki, Adrian Beltre, Jose Vidro, Raul Ibanez, Ben Broussard, Jose Lopez and Kenji Johjima to a combined 1-for-14 with just three balls making it out of the infield.

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"I'm just trying to bring it together now," Sheets said. "We've just been going through getting our work in. Today was the first time [the staff] let us pitch like we're going to play."

It was the kind of outing Sheets routinely puts forth when he's healthy. The only notable difference this time -- besides the exhibition status of the game of course -- was that Sheets was using his changeup far more often than he typically does.

"I always do every [spring]," Sheets said. "It isn't as good as the curveball. I'm trying to make it a legitimate pitch. In year's past, it never caught up to the breaking ball and the heater. If I need to [throw more changeups], I will. But if I don't see a need during the game, I'm not going to throw it just to say I threw it.

"If somebody can't hit offspeed, I'm going to try and see if they can hit my curveball first and foremost, you know? Some people might think you should throw a change in there, but why? If your curveball works why do I need to mix in anything else at the time?"

Why indeed.

Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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