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Archive for June 16th, 2012

Former Brewer Pitcher Ben Sheets to Make Comeback at age 33

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In August of 2010, I wrote a blog about former Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Ben Sheets, who had just had a major surgical procedure on his right arm (called at that time the “most massive surgery in the history of pitching” by the Hardball Talk blog.)  At that time, I said that I hoped Sheets would be like former Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano, who has come all the way back after two “Tommy John” procedures and is now pitching extremely effectively for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

About one year ago, I wrote a blog after finding out that Sheets was doing rehabilitation in Arlington, TX.  I said at that time that it would make no sense for Sheets to be doing rehabilitation if he wasn’t planning on making a comeback.

Well, my blog posts have been trumped by Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors, who wrote that on June 13, 2012, Sheets threw in front of scouts in Monroe, Louisiana.  The four teams represented were the Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Angels, and the Atlanta Braves.**  

The team that signs Sheets will have a proven ace who in the past made four All-Star teams (Sheets started the All-Star game for the National League in 2008).  Because Sheets is a hard-nosed, tough-minded competitor, he should be able to help just about any team win some ballgames down the stretch if he’s able to pitch effectively.

Sheets’ road to recovery most likely will start in the minor leagues, as that’s the path every pitcher who’s been able to make a comeback (such as Capuano) has taken.  But providing Sheets is patient and works his way back into top form, it’s possible for Sheets to become the same, effective pitcher as before (perhaps with a little less heat on the fastball, but he should be able to compensate for that with guile).

Chris Capuano has proven that it is indeed possible for a pitcher in his early 30s to come back from an extensive surgical procedure and pitch just as well if not better than ever.  So if Sheets takes “Cappy” as a model, and gives himself time, he could still have several more years in the big leagues left.

Here’s hoping.


** Note that the team that originally signed Sheets, the Brewers, was not on this list.  I’m not pleased about that, but my best guess is that the Brewers need so much other help that they don’t see how Sheets could possibly fit into their plans.  I view that as shortsighted, shoddy thinking, especially because the Brewers did sign Capuano to a minor league deal in 2010 (which worked out extremely well), which is why the Brewers know that it is indeed possible for a pitcher who’s sustained horrific arm injuries more than once to come back stronger than ever. 

But I’m not the ones making the calls in the Brewers front office.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 16, 2012 at 10:58 pm