He surrendered a two-run home run to Adam Shabala and recorded only one out in the first inning before Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux cut the frame short -- such is life in Minor League Spring Training. But Sheets was much sharper in his second inning of work and needed only nine pitches to record three outs.
"I felt great," Sheets said. "I wanted to go more. I felt like my old self again."
Sheets will travel with the rest of the team for Opening Day festivities in Milwaukee, but he will report to a Minor League affiliate to continue his rehab with a start on Thursday.
Where might he go?
"We don't know yet," general manager Doug Melvin said. "We'll look at the weather reports and make a decision."
Triple-A Nashville opens its season on Thursday in Omaha, where the forecast, as of Saturday, called for a high of 70 degrees but a 50 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms. Double-A Huntsville plays its season opener on Thursday at Jackson, Miss., where the forecast calls for cloudy skies and a high of 76.
"It doesn't matter," Sheets said. "As long as I get my pitches in, I'm happy."
Sheets is nursing a strained back muscle near to but different than the one he tore last August. Since suffering a setback in a game against Oakland on March 9, things have progressed as well as possible, head team physician William Raasch said.
"His exam afterwards was real good," Raasch said after Sheets' outing Saturday. "Good strength, no discomfort."
Melvin, assistant GM Gord Ash, manager Ned Yost and farm director Reid Nichols were among those observing Sheets' outing. Triple-A Nashville manager Frank Kremblas crouched behind the pitcher's mound calling balls and strikes because an umpire did not show up until the fourth inning.
"That was the weirdest thing -- no umpire back there," Sheets said. "I was surprised that I had such good pop in my arm, with low intensity and no adrenaline going. That was a big plus for me."
Yost confirmed that he has settled on a batting order that looks like this:
Center fielder Brady Clark, shortstop J.J. Hardy, right fielder Geoff Jenkins, left fielder Carlos Lee, first baseman Prince Fielder, second baseman Rickie Weeks, third baseman Corey Koskie/Bill Hall and catcher Damian Miller/Chad Moeller.
Koskie may get the majority of starts at third base, though Hall is the likely Opening Day starter because the Brewers are facing left-handed Pittsburgh starter Oliver Perez. Miller is expected to get most of the starts behind the plate.
"Everybody has struggles throughout their lineup over the course of a 162-game season," Yost said. "But on paper, it's a pretty balanced, nice lineup. It has good offensive sequence to it and you don't have any holes in the seven, eight, nine spots like we used to have."
Yost explained "sequence" as, "Looking for ways to manufacture runs. In years past, we'd be pretty good at the front of the lineup, but you get past the six-hole and you'd just run into a wall."
The Brewers appeared to run into a wall on Saturday, when they mustered just two hits in a 6-1 loss to the Rockies. Hardy hit his fourth spring home run, but the Brewers lost for the seventh time in their final eight games.
"You don't want to get a lot of hits on your last day," Yost said, repeating an oft-said mantra that it's better to save your hits for the regular season. "I'm not a superstitious guy, but I'll buy into that today."
The only other player who received attention from Raasch on Saturday was Clark, who was held out as a precaution because of a sprained right ankle.
An X-ray taken Friday was negative, and Raasch and Yost both said the injury is considered minor. Clark is expected to participate in the team workout Sunday and start on Opening Day.
Hall once again started in center field on Saturday and made a diving catch in the second inning.
Closer Derrick Turnbow boarded the team charter without a contract extension. That doesn't mean he won't get one.
Brewers officials and Turnbow's agent, Rick Thurman, have exchanged several proposals in recent weeks for an extension expected to go through 2008. That would "buy out" Turnbow's first two seasons of arbitration eligibility.
way better than 50-50 that it will get done," Turnbow said after pitching the ninth inning. "I think they talked again [Saturday]. Maybe in the next few days, it will be done."
Turnbow, who tied a franchise record last season with 39 saves, is already signed for 2006. He finished Spring Training with an 8.71 ERA in 11 games.
The team will host "Brewers On Deck" beginning at 10 a.m. CT Sunday at Miller Park. Players and coaches will sign autographs before participating in a 12:30 p.m. workout that's open to the public.
The event, including parking, is free. For fans not in attendance, WTMJ-AM 620 will broadcast from the event beginning at 10 a.m., and FSN North will air a one-hour special beginning at 1 p.m.