• Exclusives

    Braves ink RHP Ben Sheets to minor league deal

    Prior to Sunday’s series finale vs the Nationals at Turner Field, Braves broadcasters and fans alike saw something unexpected… a gentleman with a #30 “Sheets” jersey throwing in the Braves bullpen. Moments later, word came down that the Braves had signed veteran starting pitcher Ben Sheets to a minor league deal.

    Sheets will turn 34 years old later this month. He has pitched 9 seasons in the big leagues, including 5 straight years (2004-2008) with a sub-4.00 ERA for the Milwaukee Brewers. In 2004, Sheets set a franchise record by striking out 18 batters against the Braves. He is a 4-time All-Star (2001, ’04, ’07 and ’08).

    After losing the 2009 season to injury, Sheets signed a one-year 10 million dollar deal with the A’s to pitch in Oakland in 2010. He made 20 starts for the A’s before undergoing season-ending “Tommy John” ligament replacement surgery. He sat out the entire 2011 season and the first half of the ’12 season.

    Recently, Sheets threw for scouts of 5 Major League teams, including the Braves, on the Georgia Tech campus. It is not clear if he received any other offers, but the Braves were evidently intrigued enough by what they saw to extend a minor league offer to Sheets.

    MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that Sheets will start for Braves Double-A affiliate Mississippi on Wednesday. It will be his first uniformed start since July 19, 2010.

    And according to Braves beat writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, David O’Brien, Braves General Manager Frank Wren has stated that Sheets could join the Braves’ big league rotation within 4 weeks.

    Ben Sheets represents something of a penny stock for the Braves. It is doubtful that the team is banking on the veteran hurler to return to All-Star Milwaukee form. However, if his velocity has fully returned since his recovery from the “Tommy John” procedure, the potential remains for Sheets to be an effective Major League pitcher. And while the terms of his contract have not been made public as of this writing, given the fact that he was signed to a minor league deal, it would appear that the Braves have very little to lose by taking a chance on Sheets.

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