Milwaukee – Throwing two innings a simulated game hours before batting practice is not the way Ben Sheets envisioned his return to Miller Park. But the Braves right-hander seemed at peace in the place where he made four All-Star teams in eight years before elbow injuries derailed his career.
When asked if it was bittersweet not to be scheduled to pitch in this series, Sheets said: “Not really. I pitched here so long, if I didn’t have to pitch against them I’d prefer not to.”
Sheets faced hitters Monday for the first time since going on the disabled list on Aug. 25 with shoulder inflammation. When asked if he could get out major league hitters with the pitches he had, he said: “I feel like when I feel good, I’ll get them out. The problem is feeling good. And I felt good today.”
If Sheets’ shoulder continues to respond, and the Braves activate him from the disabled list, they would put him in the bullpen and have him available for spot start duty if needed. He’s told Gonzalez he’s game for whatever role is needed.
“If it’s pitching in one inning at a time, or it’s pitching long relief, or starting, or it’s sitting there and just watching, whatever they think is best for this team,” Sheets said. ‘I’m a big boy. If I’m not the answer in there, that’s OK. If they think I can help, that’s OK too.”
Sheets went 4-1 with a 1.41 ERA in his first five starts with the Braves and 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA in his past three. While his shoulder is improving, Sheets doesn’t know whether this year has been enough to show him he should try to return next season as well.
“I’ll cross that (bridge) later,” Sheets said. “But I don’t know. I’ll let you know that it’s very tough with the stuff I have now. It’s a mental grind. We’ll see. The game is a lot tougher than it was four years ago for me.”