Monday, July 16, 2012

Ben Sheets Returns to the Mound

Former Brewer and 4-time All-Star Ben Sheets threw his first pitch in the major leagues in nearly 2 years on Sunday, tossing 6 innings of shutout ball in a win for the Atlanta Braves over the New York Mets.  Despite the long layoff, he was still touching 92 on his fastball.  He looked very much like the Sheets of old from the very first batter: working at a brisk pace and sporting the signature 3/4 length T, painting the corners, and snapping off 12-to-6 curveballs.  It seems that with the season-ending injury to Brandon Beachy and several underacheiving rookies on the staff, that Ben will be given every opportunity to help the Braves get back in the division race - at least until his arm falls off.

Sheets' road to recovery has been remarkable given a history of injuries that can be rivaled only by Mark Prior.  He has missed 2 of the last 3 complete seasons due to arm surgeries and has missed a significant amount of time almost every season since his debut in 2001.  When Sheets is healthy and on his game, he is a huge strikeout threat (he actually still holds several Brewer strikeout records), but a lifetime of injuries makes Ben the classic example of "what might have been."  Sheets never thought he would throw another pitch after his failed 2010 experiment in Oakland, but after a brief courtship and a couple starts in AA, he is in uniform for his childhood team, the Braves.  Despite all of his hardships, he is still only 33 years old.  I think I speak for all Brewer fans when I say that I hope Ben Sheets can manage to keep his arm together with pins and duct tape and go out on his own terms.  I saw Ben pitch at his best during his remarkable 2004 season, and I saw him give Brewer fans eight great seasons on some awful teams, during an era when nobody wanted to play in Milwaukee.  He helped the Brewers make it to the playoffs in 2008 for the first time in 26 years.  He is still one of the best and most memorable players I have ever seen don a Brewer uniform in my lifetime, and I hope he can show the fans of Atlanta something special for one more season.  I'll be rooting for him and I hope to see him pitch at Miller Park in September one more time.

Brewers 42-46, -8.0 (3 v. Cardinals, 3 @ Reds)
Reds 50-38, +1.0 (4 v. Diamondbacks, 3 v. Brewers)
Twins 36-52, -13.0 (4 v. Orioles, 3 @ Royals)

Erik - 16
Peter - 25

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