TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Ben Sheets hopes a slight change in his delivery will help him avoid another injury-filled season.
The Milwaukee Brewers' ace needed only 16 pitches to get through two perfect innings in a 6-3 loss to Colorado on Saturday."I feel a little stronger and I am in a better arm slot, which is why I feel stronger," Sheets said. "The ball is lively from that arm slot."Sheets has been slowed by a slew of injuries the past three seasons, including problems with his shoulder, finger and hamstring. The right-hander has not pitched 200 innings in a season since 2004.His fastball was working perfectly against the Rockies. He threw only two curveballs and Colorado hit most of his pitches on the ground early in the counts.Sheets said he discovered the new arm position while throwing the ball against a wall one day."There is no reason I found it or how I found it, other than I just stumbled on it and I felt like it was a good slot," Sheets said. "It ended up being just what I was looking for."Despite some more aches and pains last year, the 29-year old went 12-5 record with a 3.82 ERA.Sheets is in the final season of a 4-year, $38.5 million contract with the Brewers."I am going to go out and get ready for the season and pitch every five days and hopefully take the ball 30-plus times," Sheets said.Colorado starter Jason Hirsh made his first appearance since being hit in the lower right leg against the Brewers on Aug. 7. He missed the rest of the season with a cracked fibula.The first batter Hirsh faced was Rickie Weeks, who hit a line drive up the middle for a single."There were no flashbacks, but I thought about bringing catchers (gear) out there," Hirsh said, jokingly.Hirsh, who is battling for the No. 4 starter spot with the Rockies, was 5-7 with a 4.81 ERA a year ago. He did not allow a run, gave up two hits, struck out one and walked one against the Brewers."I felt good enough to go several more innings, but it is still early in the spring," Hirsh said.Colorado did not get its first hit until Matt Holliday doubled and scored in the fifth. Holliday added a 2-run homer in the seventh off losing pitcher Scott Cassidy (0-1).Todd Helton went 1-for-3 with a double and Brad Hawpe was 1-for-2 with a triple and a RBI.Milwaukee's Vino Rottino hit his first homer of the spring off Darren Clarke (1-0). Craig Counsell was 1-for-1 with a double and Laynce Nix tripled in his lone at-bat.