To hear former Yankee Gary Sheffield, now firmly ensconced at Tigers camp, tell the tale, his failure to do much of anything in Game 4 of last year’s ALDS against Detroit is totally down to being benched in Game 3.  From the New York Post’s George King.

“Joe [Torre] took the fire out of me,” Sheffield told The Post yesterday at ProPeak Fitness, where he spent the winter chiseling his 38-year-old body getting ready for the first season as a Tiger. He was dealt for three young arms. “I am running out on the field with the extra players. Think of what was going through my head. It takes the fight out of you. I have been through a lot. To tell me that I had to run out with the extra players, that took it to another level. I wanted to make sure I didn’t lash out and affect the team, but the way we played it looked like we were affected already.”

“I wasn’t right,” said Sheffield, who missed close to four months and played first base, a new position, for the final nine games of the season, batting .250 (7-for-28). “But not playing in a game is going to affect somebody like me more than anybody else because I hadn’t been playing. I had to play in every game to get every at-bat possible. We all need confidence going into the next game. To not get an AB and come in elimination time [Game 4] and try to be a factor, it’s like you are always being put behind the 8-ball.”

Sheffield never understood why he had to hit fifth in his first season. And he remembers the hurt he felt when he heard Torre wanted to sign Vladimir Guerrero instead of him.

“I never expected how bad that hurts, you know your own manager,” Sheffield said of Guerrero being a Yankee. “I read that a lot. Think about it, I just came off a season [in Atlanta] where I hit .330 with 39 homers and 132 RBIs and broke Hank Aaron’s [single-season RBI record] and to come to the Yankees and all of a sudden before I pick up a bat, automatically I am a fifth-place hitter. It’s like you have to take a backseat to these guys because of their track record. What about my track record?

Courtesy of Newsday’s David Lennon, the above photograph shows the Mets’ Carlos Beltran engaging in that fine spring training tradition — punching Jay Horowitz in the face.

Philly’s Jimmy Rollins has repeated his assertion that he’s playing for “the team to beat” in the NL East this season, claiming “the youth and attitude of our pitchers gives us the edge.”

Between Jon Lieber’s choice of transportation and Brett Myers’ anger management issues, far be it for me to question the Phillies’ ‘tude.