Ben Sheets is ready to return to the majors for the first time in two years.
Capping a long comeback from elbow surgery, the former Milwaukee ace will start for the Atlanta Braves on Sunday against the New York Mets.
”Everything’s working,” Sheets said Thursday. ”Everything’s feeling great. I’ve been throwing the ball good. Keep making good pitches, you’ll get outs.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez liked what he saw from Sheets during a bullpen session before Atlanta’s off-day workout at Turner Field.
”I wasn’t watching anything other than that he felt good and all of a sudden, `Oh, my shoulder’s sore or my arm’s sore,”’ Gonzalez said. ”But he was fine and threw some pretty good curveballs.”
The Braves will make a roster move before Sheets’ first big league start since he and the Oakland Athletics lost 2-1 to Boston on July 19, 2010.
After that start, Sheets landed on the disabled list for the seventh time in his career, undergoing surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon and torn elbow ligament.
Atlanta signed Sheets, who turns 34 next Wednesday, to a minor league contract on July 1. He made two starts for Double-A Mississippi, going 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA in 10 2/3 innings. In eight seasons with Milwaukee and one with Oakland, the right-hander is 90-92 with a 3.79 ERA in 241 career starts.
Gonzalez hopes Sheets can go five innings Sunday, but does not want him to surpass about 88 pitches.
”He’s really, really pumped up about pitching again,” Gonzalez said. ”You don’t always get a second chance, and I think him two years of not pitching and then getting a little taste of it, I think is going to be good.”
Sheets expects to feel some anxiety before making his Atlanta debut.
”It’s always nerves, man,” he said. ”It’s always going to be nerves no matter where you’re coming from or where you’ve been.”
The Braves’ rotation has been in flux since Brandon Beachy tore a ligament in his right elbow and underwent season-ending surgery on June 25.
Jair Jurrjens is 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA since returning from a demotion to Triple-A Gwinnett, but Randall Delgado and Mike Minor have struggled with inconsistency.
Tim Hudson, who pitches opposite Mets right-hander Chris Young on Friday night, has had two cortisone shots to relieve the pain from bone spurs in his left ankle. His second shot was July 6 after his 5-0 win at Philadelphia.
”I feel really good about it,” Hudson said. ”It feels better than it has since this whole process started with my ankle. It’s pretty close to 100 percent. I’ve just got to stay on top of it and keep it that way.”
Gonzalez said general manager Frank Wren continues to look for ways to improve the club, which is four games behind first-place Washington in the NL East, a half-game ahead of the Mets.
Atlanta lost rookie shortstop Andrelton Simmons to a broken right little finger in Sunday’s 4-3 victory at Philadelphia. Gonzalez indicated that Jack Wilson will start in Simmons’ place on Friday, but the Braves might call up rookie Tyler Pastornicky from Triple-A Gwinnett, too.
Pastornicky hit .248 with a homer and 12 RBI in 45 games with the Braves early this season, but his seven errors convinced Atlanta to demote him and call up Simmons on June 1.