CINCINNATI -- Ben Sheets had so much ice tightly wrapped around his achy arm that it stuck out as he eased into the black, leather couch in the clubhouse, looking for a little relief.
What a worrisome sight for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Sheets dominated for five innings before a tight pitching arm forced him from the game Friday night and left his immediate future in doubt. The bullpen held on for a 5-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds that will be remembered for something else.
Is Sheets hurt again?
"It's just sore," Sheets said, acknowledging he was a little worried. "It's really sore. It's kind of a crampiness in there."
Sheets (3-0) felt soreness in his right triceps last Monday, the day after his 5-3 win over the Mets and Johan Santana. The hard-throwing right-hander with a history of injuries retired 18 in a row in that one.
The soreness didn't go away all week. The arm was still bothering him Friday night, though no one could tell by the results. Sheets allowed only a pair of singles in five innings, looking very comfortable in a hitter-friendly ballpark where he has never lost.
Up 5-0, manager Ned Yost decided not to send him up to bat in the top of the sixth.
"He could have continued easy, but this is not a time to take a chance," Yost said. "He was throwing good, but I'm not going to take any chance with Ben Sheets in April. I'm not doing it."
At age 29, Sheets is having one of the best Aprils of his career, allowing only three earned runs in his four starts. Suddenly, there's a familiar snag.
In the last two years, Sheets has been limited by a strained groin, a torn finger tendon, shoulder tendinitis and a sore chest muscle. The next few days will tell whether this is just a temporary thing or something that could land him on the disabled list.
"Ben's been amazing all year," third baseman Bill Hall said. "He's throwing a lot of strikes and not giving up many hits or runs. This team rolls when he stays healthy."
Hall had a two-run homer off Bronson Arroyo (0-2), who gave up five runs in 5 2/3 innings. The lanky right-hander hasn't lasted six innings in any of his four starts, a product of his high pitch counts. On Friday, he threw 116.
"It's like they're spitting on my decent pitches and hitting when I have to put it in the (strike) zone," Arroyo said. "I haven't made it through the sixth inning yet. I'm definitely not giving my team a good opportunity to win games."
One of the NL's deepest bullpens held on despite two late rallies by the Reds, who have lost six of seven with an offense struggling in the clutch.
Cincinnati loaded the bases with none out in the eighth, but failed to score. Left-hander Mitch Stetter struck out Paul Bako and Scott Hatteberg, and David Riske retired pinch-hitter Corey Patterson on a fly ball to maintain the shutout.
Riske gave up Adam Dunn's run-scoring single with one out in the ninth. Eric Gagne came on with two runners aboard and gave up Edwin Encarnacion's RBI single before closing it out for his fifth save in seven chances. Bako fouled off three full-count pitches before taking a called third strike to end it.
Ken Griffey Jr. was 1-for-4 with a bunt single, leaving him four homers shy of 600 career.
Hall hasn't been able to get many good swings off Arroyo, going 2-for-16 career with 11 strikeouts. In the third inning, he connected on a full-count breaking pitch that was right down the middle. The 439-foot drive landed in the upper deck and gave Hall six homers for the season.
"I guess 1-for-100 ain't too bad," Hall said, joking. "He's owned me over the last couple of years. Whether it's been good at-bats or a bad at-bats, it's still ended up in outs."
It was that kind of night for Arroyo, who walked three batters in a free-swinging lineup that ranks last in the majors at taking walks. He also hit Jason Kendall with a pitch.
"He wasn't sharp," manager Dusty Baker said. "He was missing by like three or four inches."
- Sheets is 4-0 in five career starts at Great American.
- Milwaukee had only 35 walks in its first 15 games. The Brewers got five on Friday.
- The Brewers haven't decided on their starter for Sunday.
- Bako's career-best hitting streak ended at nine games.