Sheffield hit a three-run homer and a sacrifice fly in his first two trips to the plate, helping the Detroit Tigers score six runs in the first two innings of a 9-5 victory over the Yankees on Sunday.
The nine-time All-Star was traded to Detroit in November -- the first major move of the offseason. He got a contract extension from the Tigers.
"You knew how it was going to be," New York's Jason Giambi said. "That's always the kiss of death, when you see a guy leave and play them again. They always have a big game."
New York exercised Sheffield's $13 million option to prevent him from becoming a free agent, then traded him for prospects.
The Tigers gave him a $28 million extension through 2009 and promised he wouldn't have to play first base anymore. They are, however, turning him into a regular designated hitter for the first time in his stellar career.
Sheffield, who has 455 home runs in 19 seasons, missed most of last year with a wrist injury after an April collision with Toronto's Shea Hillenbrand.
"My wrist is fine," he said. "I don't even think about it."
Sheffield's third homer this spring was a no-doubt shot into the fan-filled berm beyond the left-field fence. His fourth RBI of the game came on a fly to center, and he walked in his final plate appearance.
Yankees manager Joe Torre called Sheffield "a ferocious hitter" after watching him from the opposing dugout.
"Unfortunately, when you put him up in a situation with men on base, you can't do anything with him," Torre said. "You just have to take your medicine."
Sheffield's bat fills the one void the AL champion Tigers had last season. The Yankees will have to wait to find out if they got much in return for him.
New York acquired minor league pitchers Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan and Anthony Claggett in the deal. The hard-throwing Sanchez, the top prospect in the trade, has been slowed by an elbow injury that gave him problems last year at Triple-A Toledo.
The Yankees started Jeff Karstens against Detroit, and he was roughed up.
Karstens gave up six runs, six hits and two walks in two innings before leaving with a stiff elbow.
"I just didn't want to pitch it too much. It's still spring training," he said. "I'm just icing it and we'll go from there. I never really got loose. Anytime you have a problem, it worries you a little bit, but not too much."
Torre said Karstens will be evaluated Monday by the team doctor.
AL Rookie of the Year Justin Verlander was originally scheduled to face the Yankees, but instead he pitched against Detroit's Double-A prospects. Verlander threw six scoreless innings, giving up two hits, walking three, hitting one batter with a pitch and striking out eight.
"He was good," manager Jim Leyland said. "He'll be ready."
Verlander is 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA this spring, but he and the team insist those results didn't have anything to do with rescheduling his start.
"They didn't want me to face the Yankees three times this spring," Verlander said. "Hopefully, that will keep some element of surprise when I pitch against them during the season.
"I don't fear facing them, but they really wanted me to get my work in without thinking about the Yankees."
Jason Grilli took Verlander's spot, and the reliever gave up two runs over three innings.
Detroit SS Carlos Guillen (bruised right shin) and RHP Joel Zumaya (flu) said they will be out for a couple of days. C Vance Wilson (right elbow inflammation) said he will be available Monday. ... Leyland said he knows who will fill the final spot in the bullpen, but he wasn't ready to say if Chad Durbin, Zach Miner or Bobby Seay won the job. Leyland insisted he's not sure whether INF Neifi Perez, INF Ramon Santiago or 1B Chris Shelton will claim the other opening on the roster. ... New York C Jorge Posada (flulike symptoms) missed his second consecutive game and RF Bobby Abreu had the day off. ... Torre said he's leaning toward hitting Abreu third in the lineup. ... Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte (back spasms) is scheduled for a bullpen session Monday. ... Detroit CF Curtis Granderson hurt his left wrist making a sliding catch, but stayed in the game. Leyland said he will keep Granderson out of Monday's game against Washington.