While the Atlanta Braves have a decision to make at shortstop in the next few days, Ben Sheets made their decision about the starting rotation a little easier. Starting for the Mississippi Braves Monday night, Sheets threw 89 pitches over 5.2 innings. He allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 7 hits, 1 hit batsmen, and no walks, while striking out 4. But most importantly, his velocity seemed to be as advertised. Here is M-Braves announcer Kyle Tait:
Sheets' fastball was 88-91 all day, topped out at 93.Curveball command was inconsistent but it had its flashes of greatness— Kyle Tait (@kyle_tait) July 10, 2012
I would expect him to struggle with command in only his second game facing live hitters in two years. The biggest thing is that his velocity is back, and his secondary pitches, like his curve ball, are coming along. The Braves will now allow Sheets to determine whether he needs another start to hone his command, or if he feels he is ready to join the Atlanta rotation.
When games resume for the Braves on Friday after the All-Star break, Tim Hudson will begin the second half, followed by Tommy Hanson. Sunday's start is reserved for Sheets if he's ready. Jair Jurrjens will pitch on Tuesday after an off day on Monday. Then it comes down to which of the young pitchers will win that fifth spot, Mike Minor or Randall Delgado.
If Sheets does not go on Sunday, then Minor or Delgado will pitch Sunday, and the other Wednesday, but whoever starts that Sunday would likely be ticketed for the minors after the game. More than likely Sheets will be ready to go on Sunday, and the team will decide who to send down this week.
I'm not going to go through their numbers, compare them and dissect them. That would be like asking you which pile of poo you like better. They have both pitched poorly in the first half, though with flashes of brilliance at times. Certainly don't look at their records, Delgado hasn't gotten a lick of run support. In fact, he has the second worst run support in the league, and only has one win less than Minor ... ah, I said I wasn't going to compare numbers.
Either Delgado or Minor would be a crap-shoot in the rotation, but having the other nipping at his heels in the minor leagues could cause the one who makes it pitch better. And if he doesn't, then the Braves can pull a swap-a-roo.
The biggest news here is that the Braves could get some much needed starting pitching help, and it could happen this week.