PHOENIX -- All eyes were on Ben Sheets Saturday, and he thrived on the attention.
Sheets pitched four solid innings, allowing one earned run on three hits and three walks to lead the Oakland Athletics to a 7-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs in a split-squad game for both teams.Sheets, who had struck out one batter in three prior starts, whiffed four and walked three."It was good," said Sheets. "I was throwing the ball downhill, getting check swings on the breaking ball. I made some adjustments ... to everything. If I didn't need spring training, I'd just start April 5."The right-hander was signed to a $10 million contract, plus incentives, by Oakland in the offseason after missing all of 2009 recuperating from right elbow surgery.Sheets was anointed the Opening Day starter Jan. 26, the day Oakland signed him. That decision looked a bit debatable after Sheets posted a 31.15 ERA in his first three spring starts. He allowed nine earned runs and did not record an out in his prior start against the Chicago White Sox."Sometimes," Sheets said with a rueful smile, "it takes six days to get one out."Oakland scored a pair of unearned runs off Chicago starter Tom Gorzelanny in the second inning when leftfielder Jim Adduci dropped a routine fly ball to allow Daric Barton to score with two outs. Gregorio Petit followed with an RBI triple to right.Barton finished the day with four walks.The Cubs threatened Sheets in the third, but a diving catch of Xavier Nady's line drive by leftfielder Gabe Gross shut down the rally."I'm tired of pitching from the stretch," Sheets said. "I'd like some innings where I just pitch from the windup."Micah Hoffpauir scored a run and had two hits for the Cubs.Athletics manager Bob Geren was pleased with Sheets."We want him to get all of his pitches in, and also have him feel good about his outing. Both of those things are obviously the goal, so he was very pumped up about his performance today."Gorzelanny, one of four pitchers competing for two rotation spots, made his third appearance and second start of the spring. He threw 3 2/3 innings, allowing the two unearned runs on four hits. He walked five and struck out five."There were quite a few times out there when I could have ended an at-bat and instead I extended it," Gorzelanny said. "I threw a lot of good sliders that you would expect them to bite on, but they were extremely patient out there today."Eric Patterson and Cliff Pennington each had two hits for Oakland.