Ben Sheets begins comeback with five innings at Double-A

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Three days after signing with the Braves on a minor-league deal Ben Sheets officially began his comeback at Double-A, throwing five innings yesterday in his first game action since 2010.

Sheets got off to a rough start, allowing back-to-back triples to open the game, and gave up four runs on five hits overall. On the plus side he also recorded six strikeouts versus just one walk and retired the final 10 batters he faced, saying afterward that it felt “like riding a bike … it all comes back to you.”

Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports that his fastball was clocked in the low-90s, which is ultimately more important than how many runs he allowed while shaking off the rust, and he’s scheduled to start again Monday.

General manager Frank Wren has made it clear that the Braves didn’t sign Sheets to keep him in the minors for very long and there’s been speculation that he could join the rotation shortly after the All-Star break.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.