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Sheets anxious to return from inner ear infection

MILWAUKEE -- Ben Sheets' spinning world is starting to slow
down a bit, and that makes him antsy to return to the mound.

"I'm not liking what I'm doing," the Milwaukee Brewers' ace
said, "because it's nothing."

Sheets has been on the disabled list since April 21 with an
inner ear inflammation that left him so dizzy that he had to be
hospitalized for several days.

He's still in a fog but he's slowly getting back to normal. The
next step in his recovery is a bullpen session Friday in
Pittsburgh, followed possibly by a simulated game next week in
Washington, D.C. He threw 65 pitches of batting practice and
fielding drills Wednesday in his most extensive workout since going
on the DL.

"I'm moving in the right direction," Sheets said. "The first
couple days was straight spinning, then it turned to weak-kneed and
disorientation all the time. Now it's cloudy. Now it's foggy in the
head. And there's still some things that make me spin pretty
good."

Manager Ned Yost said Sheets felt dizziness twice during the
workout, once when he checked a runner at second and once when he
whirled to first for a pick-off throw.

Yost hopes to have his hard-throwing right-hander back in the
rotation for a series at Minnesota May 20-22.

Sheets insisted he'd take the mound tomorrow if it were up to
him: "I would. I'm not saying I could. If I could physically step
on it, I'd go out there. I don't know if it would be the smartest
thing, but it's not my job to be smart. It's my job to pitch."

And he hasn't been able to do that since his last start April 20
at Houston.

The only consolation for Sheets is that the Brewers haven't
fallen apart during his absence, going 11-7 instead and completing
a 9-3 homestand that was their best in 13 seasons.

"It just goes to show how good this team is," infielder Bill
Hall said. "We can hit, we can play defense and we can pitch. It's
just a good sign to everybody that we're not relying on Ben Sheets
every fifth day to get a win."

Still, they're eager for his return.

Sheets got sick just one week after signing the biggest contract
in club history, a $38.5 million, four-year deal that followed his
breakout season last year, when he had a 2.70 ERA and his 264
strikeouts were the most among NL right-handers.

Sheets had a similar illness last season that lasted one week.
He said the condition's lingering nature is what bothers him the
most.

"I haven't felt bad except for the fact that everything was
spinning and I couldn't stop it," he said. "I'm physically able
to do things, so it's gotten a lot better. But it's still boring
not being able to go out there and throw. It's been three weeks but
it seems like three months already."