Sheffield homered off Cabrera moments after the pair had to be pulled apart, leading the Tigers to an 8-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Monday night.
"You back your manager," Sheffield said. "When Cabrera started chirping at him, that's when I said something."
Cabrera hit Sheffield in the third inning, and the pair tried to get each other during an argument between the teams in the top of the fifth.
After Placido Polanco walked to start the bottom half, Sheffield hit a 2-1 pitch deep into the left-field stands and took a long time to leave the batter's box. He and Cabrera glared at each other during the slow homer trot, but umpires stayed between them.
Cabrera declined to talk to the media after the game.
"Danny was struggling with his control all night, but I guess they thought he was throwing at Sheff," Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo said. "I have the utmost respect for Gary, and if I was going to pick someone to get angry, it wouldn't be him."
Detroit right-hander Jeremy Bonderman (1-0) picked up his first decision of the season in his sixth start, allowing four runs and nine hits with a walk in five-plus innings.
"It was nice to get a win -- this has been a weird month for me," Bonderman said. "Tonight I was making good pitches, and guys just kept hitting them in the hole."
Fernando Rodney pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings for his first save.
Cabrera (1-3) issued a season-high six walks in five innings and has walked 11 in his last two starts. He allowed five runs and four hits as his winless streak stretched to four.
"We need to get our guys to trust their stuff and throw it over the plate," Perlozzo said. "We have too many games with way too many walks."
Curtis Granderson led off with a walk, and Tejada's fielding error allowed Polanco to reach base. Cabrera then walked Sheffield and Magglio Ordonez to force in the first run, and Carlos Guillen made it 2-2 when he grounded into a force at second.
Sheffield made it 3-2 in the third. He reached when Cabrera hit him with a pitch, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Ordonez's single.
The teams were tied at 3-all in the fifth when Tejada was angered by a Bonderman pitch at his ankles. Tejada pointed his bat at Bonderman as the pair yelled at each other, but he was grabbed by Ivan Rodriguez after taking one step toward the mound.
"What you saw on the field is what happened," Tejada said. "That's all I have to say."
After Sheffield's homer made it 5-3, Jay Gibbons chased Bonderman with a homer leading off the sixth.
Detroit, though, put the game away with three runs in the seventh.
Sheffield started the inning with a walk, moved to third on Ordonez's double and scored on John Parrish's wild pitch. Craig Monroe's grounder scored Ordonez, and Marcus Thames doubled in Guillen.
- Corey Patterson hit an RBI single in the fourth for Baltimore.
- The game was played in off-and-on rain showers, but it never became hard enough to force a delay.
- Ordonez was named American League player of the week after hitting .571 in the seven days ending April 29. It is the seventh time he has won the award.
- Detroit 1B Sean Casey (flu) was out of the lineup for the second consecutive game.