Results tagged ‘ Ben Sheets ’

Sheets: No bad blood

Ben Sheets didn’t exactly dominate in his first appearance wearing green, but he walked away from his Oakland A’s debut wearing the same big old smile he used to sport for the Milwaukee Brewers. 
“It’s been 17 months since I’ve been on a mound,” Sheets said after facing his former team at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Friday. “So I thought it went great.”
Never mind that the Brewers touched him for four hits — three of them well-struck, including back-to-back RBI singles by Ryan Braun and Jim Edmonds in the top of the first inning — before Sheets used up his allotment of pitches with two outs in the second. This was a serious step in the right direction for a guy who complained glumly of a “broke arm” the last time he walked off a Major League mound. 
That was Sept. 27, 2008, when Sheets and his aching right elbow tried to make one last start for the franchise that made him a first-round Draft pick nearly a decade earlier. He lasted only 2 1/3 innings against the Cubs that night before his elbow, which had already been barking for a month, finally gave out. 
Sheets was forced to watch from the sidelines while the Brewers made their first postseason appearance in a generation, and he stayed on the sidelines throughout all of 2009 while recovering from flexor tendon surgery. He signed a $10 million deal with the A’s in January to launch a comeback that began on Friday with the Brewers in the opposing dugout. 
“It really didn’t seem strange,” Sheets said. “I just saw another team out there, which was weird. I knew a couple of the guys … but I guess you don’t just stare at the batter. They’ve had a lot of turnover over there, so it ain’t like it’s all the same guys.”
That Sheets is feeling great in his new green jersey is clear. Less clear is how he really feels about his departure from Milwaukee, where he pitched from 2001-2008 and racked up more strikeouts than any pitcher in franchise history. 
Speaking to Milwaukee reporters Friday for the first time since he left, Sheets on one hand insisted that he felt no ill will toward the Brewers for letting him walk, while at the same time making it clear he felt plenty of ill will about the way the Brewers handled his surgery. 
To Sheets, those are two very separate issues. 
“When I got there we were losing 106 [games, in 2002], and when I left there we were a playoff team, so I don’t know what was disappointing,” he said. “[Pitching in the playoffs] would have been nice, but I gave what I had at the time and it cost me a whole year. …
“They couldn’t have handled me differently. We were in a playoff hunt and I wasn’t taking myself out of it. If I was capable of going, I went. I always ask myself, ‘Would I change it?’ And I wouldn’t change a thing. I would be willing to go out there and blow my arm out again.”
Asked whether he wished the Brewers would have made more of an effort to re-sign him, his voice rises. 
“Y’all made a story that there was bad blood and all, and I don’t know where y’all dreamed that up. Maybe at nighttime,” Sheets said. “There was zero bad blood. [Brewers general manager] Doug Melvin was in a no-win situation. If he signed me and I got hurt, what happens? He looks like an idiot. If he didn’t sign me and I came out last year and pitched great… What did you want him to do? There were never any hard feelings. We worked together for eight years and they were eight great years.”
The Brewers declined to offer Sheets arbitration and he hit the free agent market. He had a contract in place with the Texas Rangers before a failed physical scuttled the deal, and shortly thereafter, in February 2009, a decision was made that Sheets would undergo surgery. Because Sheets was injured in the Brewers’ employ, his representation argued that the Brewers were on the hook for surgical costs. 
But the Brewers wanted assurances that this was the same injury Sheets suffered back in September, so they asked him to come to Milwaukee for a check-up before undergoing surgery. The request rubbed him the wrong way. 
“That was handled bad for me,” Sheets said. “To be there 10 years and, on a personal level, to do that, that bothered me. And it’s not like I hold any one guy responsible; that whole situation was not handled as good as can be.”
So he’s moved on, and so have the two young sons who all but grew up in the home clubhouse at Miller Park. Sheets was asked whether his oldest son, Seaver, found it strange to see daddy wearing green. 
“As long as he saw 15 on the back, he’s fine,” Sheets said. 
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Reports: Sheets lands with A's

FormerBrewers righty Ben Sheets inked a one-year contract Tuesday with the Oakland A’s, where he will try to re-establish himself as an ace after missing all of 2009 with an elbow injury. The Cubs, Mets, Rangers and Mariners also reportedly showed interest in Sheets, who auditioned for scouts last week in Louisiana. It’s good news for the Brewers that he didn’t end up in the National League Central. 

And it was very good news for Sheets, who is guaranteed $10 million despite the fact he hasn’t thrown a pitch since 2008, and can earn $2 million more in incentives. 
The Brewers sent a scout to Sheets’ throwing session last week but had not talked with agent Casey Close since the Winter Meetings. 
“I’m surprised. I’m not surprised that he signed, but I was surprised that he signed that kind of contract,” Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. “But everyone has to do what they think they need to do. It sounds like they had some near-misses on other guys so they wanted to make sure they got this one locked up.”
Won’t it be strange to see Sheets in a different uniform? He’s pitched eight big league seasons, all with the Brewers, and is the franchise’s all-time leader with 1,206 strikeouts. 
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Sheets: 'I showed them what I've got'

MLB.com reporter Jesse Sanchez put together a roundup of Ben Sheets’ Tuesday throwing session, during which he threw more than 50 pitches in front of scouts, a few coaches and MLB Network’s Trenni Kusnierek. You can read the story and watch video of Sheets from Trenni here. And there’s also a story from the local newspaper in Monroe, La. 

Two money quotes from the Sheets coverage. First, from the man himself: “I’ve been healthy before in my life and I feel every bit as good as I have in any point of my career,” Sheets said. “That’s what I judge off of. What happens tomorrow or in seven years from now, I don’t know. We are all kind of a walking time bomb and any injury can happen at any time. But at this point, right now, I feel great.”
And this, from Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Our scout said there was nothing untoward to report either way,” said Ash. “From what we’ve been told, his expectations [for a contract] are way beyond what we think we can do.”
MLB Network analysts Jon Heyman and Tom Verducci guessed last night that Sheets would get a deal similar to Brad Penny’s pact with the Cardinals, which guarantees $7.5 million with $1.5 million more available in incentives. Barring some other moves to free payroll, that’s out of the Brewers’ price range. Never mind the inherent risk of signing someone who didn’t pitch the previous season. 
But if Sheets stays healthy in 2010 and resembles his former self, he could end up being the best signing of the offseason. The Reds, Cubs and Cardinals were among the National League Central clubs with scouts at Tuesday’s showcase. 
In other former Brewers news, I saw on the website MLB Trade Rumors, via the Philadelphia Daily News, that Eric Gagne will work out for the Phillies today. Gagne last pitched in the Majors in 2008 with Milwaukee and actually finished the year strong as a setup man after flaming out as the closer. 
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Brewers to attend Sheets session

Brewers GM Doug Melvin said he will dispatch area scout Jeremy Booth to the University of Louisiana-Monroe on Tuesday to watch former Brewer Ben Sheets throw for teams. Booth covers Louisiana and southern Texas for the Brewers. 
Cost remains a major hurdle to a reunion between the Brewers and Sheets, who didn’t pitch at all in 2009 after undergoing elbow surgery. Melvin said he has not spoken with agent Casey Close about Sheets since the Winter Meetings last month, and indicated that Booth’s attendance at Tuesday’s showcase falls under due diligence.  
“It doesn’t hurt,” Melvin said. 
The Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals, Rangers and Blue Jays are among the other teams planning to send scouts to watch Sheets throw off a mound. 
“They’re going to like what they see,” Sheets told ESPN.com this week. 
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Sheets to throw for teams

Ben Sheets is set to audition for teams in a throwing session at the University of Louisiana-Monroe next week, according to a report on ESPN.com (here’s a link to an MLB.com story based on that report). According to ESPN, six to 10 teams have expressed interest in the former Brewers righty, who did not pitch at all in 2009 after undergoing elbow surgery. 

It’s difficult to see Sheets fitting into the Brewers’ budget, but I am working to determine whether they will dispatch a scout to see how he’s faring. 
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Report says Cubs will target Sheets

Ben Sheets in a Cubs uniform? The Chicago Tribune says it’s a possibility.

The newspaper reported Monday that Chicago GM Jim Hendry contacted Sheets’ agent, Casey Close, last month about the right-hander’s availability and could try to convince Sheets to take an incentive-laden deal. He will turn 32 in July and is coming off a 2009 season lost entirely to elbow surgery.

The Brewers paid for that procedure because Sheets was injured in his final season in Milwaukee. He was the Brewers’ first-round Draft pick in 1999 and debuted in the Majors in 2001, when he made the National League All-Star team and began an eight-year tenure in Milwaukee. He’s the Brewers’ all-time leader with 1,206 strikeouts.

The Cubs are building an impressive starting rotation. They will not have Ted Lilly for the first month of the season as he continues to recover from arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder, but do head into Spring Training with Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells plus a list of candidates for the fifth spot that includes newcomer Carlos Silva, plus Jeff Samardzija, Tom Gorzelanny, and Sean Marshall.

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Sheets' 18-strikeout gem airs tonight

MLB Network is airing a block of All-Time Games this weekend highlighting high-strikeout games and is featuring one that they have not aired before: Ben Sheets’ 18-strikeout performance for the Brewers vs. the Braves in 2004. It’s on at 5:30 p.m. CT on Saturday night.

Other games included in the block of All-Time Games this weekend are Ron Guidry’s 18 strikeouts for the Yankees against the California Angels in 1978; Ramon Martinez’s 18 strikeouts for the Dodgers vs. the Braves in 1990; Roger Clemens’ 20 strikeouts for the Red Sox against the Mariners in 1986; David Cone’s 19-strikeout game for the Mets vs. the Phillies in 1991; and Randy Johnson’s 20 strikeouts for the Diamondbacks against the Reds in 1997.

For everything you need to know about Trenni Kusnierek’s employer, check out www.mlbnetwork.com.  And for another update on Sheets, check out the story I filed for MLB.com on Friday.  And, for nostalgia, here’s my coverage of Sheets’ gem from May 16, 2004.

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Brewers eye free agent pitching market

Surprise, surprise. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin spent his time at this week’s General Managers Meetings in Chicago focused on pitching.

Melvin spoke this week with agent Arn Tellem, who represents free agent left-hander Randy Wolf, and Steve Canter, the agent for free-agent left-hander Doug Davis, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. At some point he also expressed interest in left-hander Jarrod Washburn, Washburn’s agent Scott Boras told the newspaper.

According to a Major League source, Melvin also met with Steve Hilliard, who represents righty John Lackey, the top available pitcher. In a chat with the Journal Sentinel before heading home to Milwaukee, Melvin downplayed the Brewers’ chances of landing Lackey. 

“It depends what they’re asking for,” Melvin said. “I don’t know if it could fit or not. I might have to make some other moves to make it fit.” 

The Brewers may have jumped to the top of the list of teams expected to pursue Lackey last week, when Melvin brought up Lackey’s name in a discussion of his plan to bolster a pitching staff that ranked next-to-last in the National League in 2009. 

Melvin said he would have to focus on bounce-back candidates coming off poor- or injury-plagued seasons, and indeed he has already checked in with the agent for Mark Mulder, who missed all of 2009 with shoulder woes. At some point Milwaukee could also check in with former Brewer Ben Sheets, who never pitched in 2009 after undergoing elbow surgery.

But at the same time, Melvin would not rule out a look at the top shelf of free agents. 

“There’s one guy that stands out and it’s John Lackey,” Melvin told reporters on a conference call last Friday. “He’s head and shoulders above the others. … You look at the consistency of pitchers who are out there and John Lackey is a great competitor, but we’ll have to take a look at that and see.” 

Since Melvin raised Lackey’s name without being asked, he was pressed on the matter. Is he a free agent of interest to the Brewers? 

“We’ll leave that discussion internally for ourselves,” Melvin said. “When you get involved in free agency and you talk about people, then all you’re doing is letting people know you’re interested and it drives the prices up. So I’m not going to say who we’re interested in or who we’re not.” 

It’s a two-way street, said Melvin, who believes most free agents enter the market with a short list of teams they prefer. 

“It’s our job to find out if we’re on that list of teams,” Melvin said.  

If the Brewers are on Lackey’s list, then Melvin might have to move some more payroll, as he suggested to the Journal Sentinel on Wednesday. 

Melvin has already said he won’t pursue center fielder Mike Cameron, who earned $10 million last year, and has hinted that Jason Kendall’s $5 million salary might not fit next year, either. His highest-paid returning players are starter Jeff Suppan (due $12.5 million in 2010, the final year of his four-year contract), first baseman Prince Fielder ($10.5 million), closer Trevor Hoffman ($7.5 million) and reliever David Riske ($4.5 million in the final year of his three-year deal). 

More decisions are coming. The Brewers have until Saturday to exercise their half of starter Braden Looper’s $6.5 million mutual option, and pitcher Dave Bush (who made $4 million in 2009), outfielder Corey Hart ($3.25 million) and second baseman Rickie Weeks ($2.45 million) head the list of arbitration-eligible players whose salaries could jump again. 

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Where will Sheets wear No. 15 next season?

ben-sheets.jpgFormer Brewers right-hander Ben Sheets returned to his Louisiana high school last week and saw his No. 15 uniform retired. Sheets intends to be wearing it again in 2010.

He missed all of 2009 after undergoing surgery in February to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right arm, but a member of Sheets’ camp said he is participating in a flat-ground throwing program and is planning to be “more than ready to go” when the 2010 season begins. If that is the case, Sheets could draw some serious action on this winter’s free-agent market.

But that wasn’t the focus last Friday night, when Sheets returned to St. Amant High School in a small town between Baton Rouge and New Orleans and became the school’s first baseball player honored with a retired number.

“It’s time,” said Walter Lemons, the Gators’ head baseball coach and whose tenure began in Sheets’ freshman year.

“I’ve been working on this for four or five years,” Lemons said. “We finally got it done. He’s well-deserving, and I wanted to make sure he was the first baseball number we retired. I wanted to make it special for him.”

For more on Sheets and his possible destinations, see my story on Brewers.com.

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Tidbits: Hoffman, Suppan, Sheets, Hardy

The discussion about whether the Brewers would trade Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder was the most interesting part of general manager Doug Melvin’s year-end wrap-up with the media, but here’s a taste of the other topics discussed:

- The Brewers officially announced their new deal with closer Trevor Hoffman, who re-signed for one year plus a mutual option for 2011. The contract guarantees $8 million and could pay as much as $16.5 million over two years. 

 “By signing Trevor Hoffman, that was a big splash for us,” Melvin said. “If our pitching is going to improve, we have to keep the success we had at the back end of our bullpen. And also, to attract free agent starting pitchers, one of the first questions they always want to know is, ‘Who is the closer?'” 

- Melvin hinted that the focus on pitching could make it difficult for the team to re-sign its key free agents, including center fielder Mike Cameron and catcher Jason Kendall. Rickie Weeks is the second baseman, Melvin reiterated, making it likely that free agent Felipe Lopez will also be let go.

Assistant GM Gord Ash conceded that it’s difficult for teams to win with unproven players up the middle but insisted it can be done. He mentioned Lorenzo Cain and Logan Schafer as the team’s top center field prospects and said Jonathan Lucroy was the team’s top catching prospect. Interestingly, Angel Salome’s name was not brought up.

- Jeff Suppan, the Brewers’ 2009 Opening Day starter, is not guaranteed a spot in the 2010 starting rotation despite his $12.5 million salary. It will be the final season of his four-year contract, and he projects as the team’s highest-paid player for the second straight year. 

“I think Jeff is a professional and he knows that he will come into camp and [compete],” Melvin said. “You have to give him some credit for the fact he’s been given the ball a lot of years. He’s very seldom injured. … I don’t think there will be very many guarantees about who will be in the rotation. We probably have to make it more competitive to get better.” 

- Free agent righty Ben Sheets, who missed all of 2009 following elbow surgery, is still on the Brewers’ radar.

“Ben is somebody who would have to be on anybody’s list when it comes to improving your pitching staff,” Ash said. “We’re not up to date with his physical condition right now since he’s no longer in our care, so that would have to be Step 1. But from our point of view, we enjoyed Ben as part of the Brewers and there’s been, ‘once in a while’ conversations with his agent to remind him that we still have that ongoing interest. It hasn’t been followed-up yet.”

- Melvin already interviewed one potential pitching coach on Monday and was to travel with Ash on Thursday to interview another candidate. He wouldn’t say whether he had already spoken with former A’s and Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, an early favorite for the position because of his past working relationships with Brewers manager Ken Macha and bench coach Willie Randolph

“We don’t want to advertise who we’re looking at,” Melvin said. “The cat’s out of the bag on one guy. I interviewed him on Monday and another team interviewed him the next day.” 

- Ash shed more light on the options that faced third baseman Casey McGehee, who underwent successful surgery on Tuesday. McGehee has a lesion in his knee, Ash said, that causes fragments of bone to break away. He could have had a more intensive procedure to inject healthy cells into the knee to promote re-growth but it was a riskier procedure that could have sidelined McGehee weeks or even months into the 2010 season. 

“He elected, after consulting with a couple of surgeons, to have kind of the intermediary procedure done, and that was to take out all of the fragments and hope that area of his knee remains intact,” Ash said. “We don’t have 100 percent guarantee on that. What we do know about Casey is that he’s an excellent worker and he’s motivated.” 

- Melvin did little to dispute the notion that shortstop J.J. Hardy will be traded this winter to make room for Alcides Escobar. Hardy’s value is down both because of his poor 2009 season (he batted .229 and was optioned to the Minors in August) and because the rest of the league knows that the Brewers are ready to install Escobar. 

“It might be down a little bit,” Melvin said of Hardy’s value. “But there are still clubs that have interest in him. Shortstop is a big hole to fill.”

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