Notes: Sheets makes rehab start
Right-hander reports no problems with strained back muscle
MILWAUKEE -- One Minor League start down, one to go for Ben Sheets, who is on a course to rejoin the Brewers rotation in just over a week.
Sheets threw 49 pitches for Double-A Huntsville on Thursday night in Pearl, Miss., and reported no troubles with the strained muscle in his upper back. He will head back out for another Minor League assignment on Tuesday, but that's as far as Brewers manager Ned Yost is willing to project.
"We have no really set plans," Yost said. "We're just taking it week by week."
It's hard not to notice that Sheets -- assuming he stays healthy and on his every-five-day schedule -- would be available to pitch April 16. The Brewers play the Mets at Shea Stadium that day, and it happens to be the first time they'll need a fifth starter.
Sheets returned to Miller Park on Friday for a check-up with the team's medical staff and he will throw a bullpen session on Saturday. He expects to make his next start for Triple-A Nashville, which plays at Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, though the Brewers have yet to make a formal announcement.
"I'm ready to get back, but I don't want to jump the gun," Sheets said. "If I tried to jump the gun and had a setback, I'd look like an idiot. I try to tell myself that one more [rehab] start ain't going to be a killer."
Sheets will be on a 70-pitch limit for his next start, Yost said.
According to two reports, Sheets topped out at 96 mph in the first inning Thursday and threw 37 of his 49 pitches for strikes. He struck out five and allowed four hits and two runs, one unearned, in 2 2/3 innings against the Mississippi Braves.
"I felt great out there," Sheets told the Huntsville Times. "My velocity was there. I had a good curveball. I've just got to locate a little better on my fastball."
The Braves are managed by former Atlanta infielder Jeff Blauser, who called Yost on Friday with a positive report. Yost's 80-year-old father-in-law lives in Jackson, Miss., and also phoned with inning-by-inning reports on Sheets.
"I got three phone calls," Yost said. "I think it made him feel important."
One look at Sheets on Friday told Yost all he needed to know.
"That's how you can always tell how Benny's feeling, by his personality," Yost said.
Wardrobe malfunction: Before Sheets could take the mound, he had to find a uniform that fit. The belt proved the biggest problem.
"Most of the kids at that stage are 21," Sheets said of his Double-A teammates. "They don't have no 'man-weight' on 'em yet."
Sheets finally borrowed a belt from the opponents, a hand-me-down from Atlanta that belonged previously to Braves manager Bobby Cox. They don't list managers' weights in the media guide, but it's safe to say that Benny is a bit slimmer than Bobby.
"It had a boomerang on it," Sheets joked. "I kind of threw it around me."
He had to look good because Sheets' parents made the drive from St. Amant, La., keeping alive their streak of attending Sheets' Opening Day starts.
Opening eyes: Sheets was less interested in talking about his outing than that of 22-year-old right-hander Carlos Villanueva, who followed with 5 1/3 innings of scoreless relief and picked up the win.
Villanueva spent most of last season at Class A Brevard County, where he was 8-1 with a 2.32 ERA in 21 starts before a promotion to Huntsville. He was the Brewers' Minor League pitcher of the month for June.
"He was fun to watch," Sheets said.
Where does Fielder fit? Yost stuck with first baseman Price Fielder in the No. 7 hole for Friday's series opener against Arizona. Fielder went 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts in two games as the No. 5 hitter before Yost dropped him to the seventh spot.
"He just lost his mental side," Brewers hitting coach Butch Wynegar said. "He had a hard time regrouping and the next thing you know, you're just seeing the ball and swinging. That's not Prince. He's not a strikeout guy."
Yost's move paid off in the eighth inning Wednesday, when Fielder snapped an 0-for-11 start to the season with a go-ahead bloop single.
For now, Fielder may stick in the No. 7 spot. Third baseman Corey Koskie batted fifth on Friday night.
"We talked about lineups in Spring Training and my suggestion was to have Prince hit seventh," Wynegar said. "I thought there were going to be enough RBI opportunities in that seventh spot, and I just made the comment that the fifth spot could create a little bit more pressure for him. Ned said, 'He's got to learn to hit fifth sometime.'"
Snow day: A few flurries fell outside Miller Park's closed dome during batting practice Friday night. That was nothing, said Yost, who has memories of much worse at old County Stadium.
"I remember trying to catch, and it was snowing so hard you could hardly see the center fielder, let alone a white ball coming at you at 90 mph," Yost said.
Last call: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Derrick Turnbow is the first pitcher to record a save in his team's first three games of a season since saves became an official statistic in 1969. A number of pitchers had previously accomplished the feat in their team's first three wins. ... Yost said he can't wait until Sunday, when the Brewers will dust off their 1982-style uniforms for the first "Retro Sunday" at Miller Park. The skipper said he wants to "break them out more often" than every Sunday home game this season. ... Former Brewers catcher Charlie Moore, who played 14 of his 15 Major League seasons in Milwaukee, visited Friday. He got a tour of the facilities from another former Brewer, Gorman Thomas, who will sign autographs on Sunday. The team is encouraging fans to get involved with Retro Sunday by sporting their best "big hair" styles.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.