Sheffield breaks out with first spring hit

Sheffield collects first hit of spring

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Gary Sheffield's hitless spring is over. Not that he was really worried about it.

"No," he said Wednesday. "I just thought, man, Ichiro [Suzuki] was eating the same thing."

Only Seattle's Ichiro, last year's runner-up to Magglio Ordonez in the American League batting race, had more at-bats without a hit this spring than Sheffield going into the day. But Sheffield's 0-for-14 start, tied with Boston's Bobby Kielty for longest in the Grapefruit League, included a fair number of at-bats in which he was dealing with leg cramps.

Wednesday's game against the Astros was a positive sign for Sheffield. He turned on the first pitch he saw from Houston starter Woody Williams and pulled it down the left-field line for a double.

"I was in a better hitting position today," Sheffield said. "I was able to use my legs. When I feel that way, I don't worry about results that much."

Sheffield flew out to the warning track in center field in the third inning. He finished the day 1-for-4. Though he's now 1-for-18 this spring, Sheffield is making contact, having struck out just once.

After all the Spring Trainings he has been through, the numbers have become superfluous to him.

"Mine is all about how I feel," Sheffield said. "If I'm healthy, I don't worry about that. I've been doing this for a long time. Every spring I say I'm going to try to have a good spring, and I never do in 20 years. If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Sheffield's start rounded out the Tigers' mighty projected Opening Day lineup, which was together Wednesday for the first time all spring. Detroit had something close to that in its Spring Training opener two weeks ago, but Sheffield was out while dealing with his arbitration case against his former agent, Scott Boras.

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