Notes: Sheets finds comfortable slot

Notes: Sheets finds comfortable slot

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Ben Sheets found his arm slot and apparently some peace of mind.

The Brewers right-hander worked two perfect innings in his Spring Training debut Saturday, needing only 16 pitches to retire all six Colorado Rockies hitters he faced. It was a solid start for a soon-to-be 30-year-old coming off another injury-shortened season and heading into a contract year.

"I feel a little stronger this year," Sheets said. "I feel like I've got the better arm slot, and that's why I feel stronger. ... The ball is just livelier out of that slot."

Sheets found that slot throwing against a wall at home in Louisiana during the offseason. It was something he was searching for all of last season, when Sheets worked extensively with Mike Maddux on mechanics between his finger and hamstring injuries.

Sheets tied for the team lead with 12 wins, but was limited to 24 starts and 141 1/3 innings. Staying healthy is key to Sheets returning to his workhorse status of 2002-2004, but finding the proper arm slot cannot hurt.

"It seems like it would be an easy thing to remember, and you can just get in it, but it's not," Sheets said. "I feel like I went all of last year -- and I pitched well at times -- without getting in it. We searched and we searched and we searched."

Even more troubling last season was a finger injury that shelved Sheets for six weeks. He tore tissue that surrounds a tendon in his right middle finger and said Saturday that he occasionally feels pain during certain activities. It does not hurt when he's pitching, Sheets said.

His 16th and final pitch on Saturday was a 94 mph fastball, and Sheets threw two curveballs and one changeup during his outing. Five of his six outs came via ground balls.

Sheets is about to finish a four-year contract and will be a free agent for the first time after this season. But despite his recent spate of injuries, he stuck with his usual offseason routine.

"I've always come in and felt pretty good, it's just the 'in season' that's been kicking my butt lately," Sheets said. "We just hope for a better outcome. I know they say insanity is doing the same thing and hoping for different results, but I know I've had good results doing this before, and I know I can have them again."

Sheets said his 16-pitch outing was "plenty." The Brewers would not have let him work a third inning even if he asked.

"It wouldn't have accomplished anything," manager Ned Yost said. "Benny had a nice, nice day."

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Mr. Popularity: Tony Gwynn, Jr. started in center field and received a warm ovation from Rockies fans. That's because Gwynn played a key role in sending the Rockies to the postseason last October, hitting a two-out, game-tying triple in the bottom of the ninth inning in an eventual Brewers win over the Padres on the next-to-last day of the regular season. The Brewers also won the finale, setting up a Padres-Rockies playoff for the National League Wild Card.

The Rockies, of course, won that game, then advanced to the World Series. Their NL championship trophy is on display at Hi Corbett Field.

"Can I get a replica?" Gwynn joked. "I had nothing to do with it, but they continue to put me involved with it. It's cool. It's nice to have had a season like I had and finish it on a note like that, and end up helping [the Rockies] get to where they had to go. I'm all for it."

Yost said Saturday that he had some contact with members of the Colorado coaching staff during the final weekend of last season. They were essentially, "Go get 'em," talks, and Yost declined to go into detail.

Last call: The Brewers will announce Sunday the outcome of talks with their five remaining unsigned players: Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Gabe Gross, Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks. The Brewers have the right simply to renew contracts of players with fewer than three years of service if they cannot come to terms, and might do that in a number of cases. Fielder's contract was also renewed last season. ... Vinny Rottino homered in Saturday's 6-3 loss, but Yost was particularly pleased with Rottino's time behind the plate and the way Rottino received pitches. New left fielder Ryan Braun also flashed some glove, making a leaping catch at the wall in the fourth inning. ... The Brewers will have a moment of silence Sunday for John F. Long, the Phoenix real estate developer who donated the 56-acre site on which Maryvale Baseball Park was built. Long passed away Friday at 87.

Up next: Right-hander Carlos Villanueva and left-hander Chris Capuano are each scheduled to work two innings when the Brewers host the Angels at Maryvale Baseball Park at 2:05 CT on Sunday afternoon. Jon Garland will make his debut for Los Angeles in the first of two meetings between the teams this spring. For Capuano, it will be his first opportunity to move on from a frustrating 2007 season in which he lost his final 12 decisions.

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