Notes: Sheffield always on the move
Right fielder batting .240 with eight homers entering Sunday
DETROIT -- Being a designated hitter was an uphill climb for Gary Sheffield starting out this season. It still is, sort of.
After spending the first month of the season and then some trying to figure out a routine to occupy the time between his at-bats, Sheffield has settled on keeping a bat in his hands and moving around.
"I pace the stairs every inning," Sheffield said. "I move through the whole game. I don't just sit. I might go in and sit when we're hitting, but for the most part, when we're in the field, I'm pretending I'm in the field, so I'm always moving. By the time the guys sprint back into the dugout, I'm meeting them in the dugout and sitting down with them.
"It's just trying to get a rhythm with it, kind of get a flow of the game. It's something that I'm trying to establish."
It's also a long set of stairs up to the clubhouse. He'll walk them with a bat, then back down, then sometimes back up again if it's a long inning. It's an outlet for his energy, a mode for working up a sweat, and it's a way to work out his legs in a way that he couldn't find riding an exercise bike between at-bats earlier in the season.
"I tried that also," Sheffield said of the bike. "I tried that when it was cold, because I wanted to break a sweat by riding a bike. But I found myself getting tired and just constantly working. Next thing you know, over the course of a nine-inning game, you've ridden the bike for four miles, so I had to cut that back a little bit."
The results speak well for the move. His home run Saturday was his sixth this month, one off the American League lead held by Oakland's Jack Cust entering Sunday. After batting under .200 as recently as May 1, Sheffield is up to .240 thanks to a .292 average in May.
For one day at least, Sheffield was back in the field. Manager Jim Leyland put him in right and Magglio Ordonez at designated hitter Sunday to give Ordonez a bit of a rest. Sheffield responded with two highlight catches. One was an underhand scoop he used to catch a Jim Edmonds line drive that was hit harder than he originally thought. On the next pitch, he made a sliding catch in foul territory to retire Scott Rolen.
It's also a chance to keep Sheffield fresh defensively in advance of the Tigers' Interleague road trip next month. Detroit will play consecutive games without the DH in June at Philadelphia, Washington and Atlanta. Leyland said Sunday he plans to have Craig Monroe work in center field before games over the next few weeks in anticipation of that stretch. Likewise, Sheffield could see time in left and right field on that trip.
Maroth returns: Mike Maroth was back in the Tigers clubhouse Sunday morning for the first time since a stomach virus knocked him out of his scheduled start against the Red Sox on Thursday at Fenway Park. He planned on throwing a light side session Sunday ahead of his next turn in the rotation Tuesday against the Angels, which he and Leyland expect he'll make.
"It was a miserable few days," said Maroth, who was bedridden for most of the past couple days and couldn't hold down food until Saturday.
Maroth believes he caught the bug from his two sons, both of whom were suffering from it in Boston. They didn't have it to quite the extent of Maroth, who felt fine until waking up in the middle of the night after Wednesday's rainout.
"The flight home was a long flight," said Maroth, who was struggling to hold down everything on his Thursday afternoon flight back from Boston. "It seemed like it took forever."
Quicker to home: The Cardinals lost the potential tying baserunner in the seventh inning Saturday, when Ivan Rodriguez threw out So Taguchi trying to steal second base with two outs and Albert Pujols on deck. Odd as the timing seemed, Cards manager Tony La Russa said the choice was based on Fernando Rodney pitching, and credited a quick move from Rodney for helping thwart it.
"You take what they give you," La Russa said after the game. "Usually Rodney is a 1.6, 1.7 [second] guy [delivering to home plate]. On that one, he was 1.4.
"A base hit ties the game, right? The bag is there. When the bag is there and they don't take it against us, I think it's not good managing. He had a green light, and if he got a jump, he was going to go. He picked that pitch and the catcher made a great throw."
Beard time is over: After growing out a full beard since the start of the regular season, Nate Robertson decided to shave it Saturday night after the game. All that remains is a goatee and some stubble.
Robertson said it wasn't a quick reaction, but something he'd been debating for the last couple weeks before deciding now was the time.
"I was tired of it," Robertson said. "I just looked in the paper and saw I had the Red Wings beat."
Hockey players often grow out beards during the playoffs, but Robertson had a head start on them, having not shaved since the end of Spring Training.
"Yeah, it was getting kind of gross," he said.
Coming up: The Tigers have Monday off before starting a three-game series against the Angels on Tuesday night at Comerica Park. Maroth (3-0, 4.69) is scheduled to take the mound for the first time since May 11. John Lackey (6-3, 2.43) takes a 5-0 career record against the Tigers to the mound in the 7:05 p.m. ET start.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.