The Braves were in a big hurry to bring up Ben Sheets, and now we know why. Making his first major league start in two years, Sheets shut out the Mets for six innings on Sunday.
Throwing 89-92 mph with his fastball and demonstrating a surprisingly sharp curve, Sheets allowed just two hits and struck out five in the 88-pitch outing. The Braves were up 6-0 when they removed him for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth and went on to win 6-1.
Sheets didn’t know if he’d pitch again following Tommy John surgery in 2010. His elbow had major damage besides just the ligament, and he still wasn’t ready to pitch this spring after a year and a half off. The Braves signed him last month and brought him up after just two minor league starts in which he had a 5.06 ERA. It seemed like an act of desperation, but it turns out they knew exactly what they were doing.
How long Sheets’ arm will hold up this time is anyone’s guess. The 33-year-old hasn’t been an effective major league starter since 2008, and his last full season was 2004. The Braves, though, only need a half-season out of him now. For one day, at least, he gave them a nice lift.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.