TUCSON -- Ben Sheets did not exactly end Spring Training on a high note. Facing a regular-season White Sox lineup on a blustery day at Tucson Electric Park, Sheets was hit around throughout his five innings of work, allowing nine earned runs on eight hits, including four home runs. He issued one walk and struck out only one batter, finishing Spring Training with a 9.56 ERA in five starts. Five days from Wednesday's slugfest, Sheets was scheduled to take the mound on Opening Day at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. Did it bother him to leave Arizona the way he did?
"It does," Sheets said, "and it doesn't." It doesn't because Sheets has been knocked around in his final tune-up before. There was a start against the Angels several years ago in which 11 straight hitters reached base against the right-hander. Last year, he surrendered eight Giants hits in his spring finale, then twirled a two-hit complete game to beat the Dodgers on Opening Day. "It's kind of like that big game in football where they look past the week before," Sheets said. "Seriously, I'm just ready to go. ... We'd all rather pitch well though, especially the last time." Two of the homers came off the bat of Jim Thome, on a curveball down and a changeup up. The first of the afternoon was a second-inning shot by Alexei Ramirez -- the No. 9 hitter -- which plated three runs. The other was a solo home run by catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who connected on an 0-2 breaking ball. In the regular season, all of those home runs would have raised red flags. In Spring Training, they were brushed off. "When he got the ball down, he was overpowering. It just wasn't enough," Yost said. "Take a look at Spring Training results from most good pitchers. They get their work in. They're working on stuff. They're not concerned with [results]. There's a difference when adrenaline comes into the picture." Sheets is scheduled to face Cubs right-hander Carlos Zambrano on Opening Day.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.