Tigers get first look at Matsuzaka

Tigers get first look at Dice-K at Fenway

Once upon a time, Gary Sheffield would've loved to call Fenway Park home. He'll settle for a four-day visit.

Though Sheffield generated headlines in Spring Training when he told the Boston Herald he had hoped the Yankees wouldn't pick up his option so he could sign with the Red Sox, it wasn't a matter of switching sides in baseball's most famous rivalry. Sheffield loves the ballpark.

Given his stats there, it isn't hard to figure out why. As the Tigers prepare for a four-game series against the Red Sox starting Monday night, Sheffield returns to Fenway as a .325 lifetime hitter there. His .927 OPS is his second-highest at any American League park where he has at least 100 at-bats. He has 17 doubles in 41 games there to go with six home runs and 26 RBIs.

"That's why when [the Yankees] talked about not picking up my option [last fall], I was hoping they didn't," Sheffield said. "And that's probably the place I would've chosen, to go hit at that type of park. I mean, it's a park I feel like if I played in there every day, my numbers would be a lot better than what they have been, just because of the fact I don't care who's pitching, I can pull the baseball. If I'm not hitting a home run, I can at least hit it off the wall.

"That's why I looked at it like this could benefit me more than anything. ... That's how I was looking at it, and still having an opportunity to win. And I like a lot of the players on that team. My whole thing was about being around people that I know, and so that was one of the situations that I looked at and looked at hard."

Of course, that was before the Yankees picked up his option, and before the Tigers and manager Jim Leyland emerged as a legitimate suitor. Now he headlines a Detroit club coming into town with the second-best record in the American League, trailing only the Red Sox.

Sheffield does not see this series as a measuring stick for his club, only another set of games on the schedule. He does, however, see this as the kind of series that can produce an atmosphere at Fenway. The starting pitcher in the opener can produce that by himself.

The Tigers missed out on seeing Daisuke Matsuzaka in their lone Spring Training meeting with the Red Sox. Thanks to Matsuzaka pitching in the series opener, they'll miss out on the buzz leading into this game. They were focused enough on Sunday night's game against the Twins that they weren't thinking about Matsuzaka or the gyroball awaiting them Monday night. They could prepare for that when they left the Twin Cities on their way to what was scheduled to be a 3:45 a.m. ET arrival in Boston.

"It's going to be interesting to see the different pitches that he has," Curtis Granderson said, "and step in against him, also see some film on him for scouting purpose rather than fan purpose."

The fans will have enough to get geared up about with Matsuzaka. Sheffield anticipates it will be an energetic atmosphere. Of course, after three years going there as a Yankee, he's pretty used to it. He had his share of controversy at Fenway two years ago when a fan in the outfield seats supposedly tossed a beer in Sheffield's face as he was chasing a foul ball, but he said Sunday that he has generally felt like many Red Sox fans respect him.

"When I went there with the Yankees, there was always a little more hatred behind it," Sheffield said. "I would say a lot more hatred."

Pitching matchup
DET: LHP Nate Robertson (3-2, 3.43 ERA)
Robertson's start against the Mariners on Wednesday was his worst of the season. He was unable to make it out of the fifth inning, allowing six runs on 10 hits in a 9-2 loss. He retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced but struggled with his command in the fourth and fifth innings. He didn't walk anyone, but he left too many balls up in the zone, leading to his earliest exit this year. Now, Roberston has to begin a four-game series against the Red Sox, a team that has scored 24 runs in 29 1/3 innings against him in his career.

BOS: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (4-2, 4.80 ERA)
Matsuzaka was able to exhale after breaking out of a three-start slump with an impressive victory against the Blue Jays on Wednesday. He allowed five hits and a run over seven innings while notching eight strikeouts. This is the first career appearance against the Tigers for Dice-K. In three starts at Fenway, Matsuzaka is 1-1 with a 7.58 ERA. Overall, he has 47 strikeouts in 45 innings. Opponents are hitting .234 against him.

Player to watch
Magglio Ordonez, once the subject of trade rumors involving the Red Sox while he was still in Chicago, is a .359 (47-for-131) career hitter at Fenway Park. He has 13 doubles, five homers and 19 RBIs in 34 games there.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FSN Detroit

On radio
• WXYT-AM 1270/WKRK-FM 97.1

Up next
• Tuesday: Tigers (RHP Justin Verlander, 3-1, 2.83) at Red Sox (RHP Tim Wakefield, 4-3, 1.79), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Tigers (LHP Mike Maroth, 3-0, 4.69) at Red Sox (RHP Julian Tavarez, 1-4, 6.60), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Tigers (RHP Chad Durbin, 3-1, 5.08) at Red Sox (RHP Curt Schilling, 4-1, 3.63), 7:05 p.m. ET

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.