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.
The Athletics followed Friday’s 3-0 shutout with a rookie-led home run derby on Saturday afternoon, watching not one, not two, but three rookies belt their first major league home runs off of the White Sox’ James Shields.
Right fielder Matt Olson was the first to strike, taking Shields deep on a first-pitch, two-run blast in the first inning for his first home run in 49 major league plate appearances:
Fellow outfielder Jaycob Brugman duplicated his teammate’s results in the second inning with a solo home run, his first extra-base hit of any kind since he made his debut on June 9:
In the third, with a comfortable 4-0 lead backing two scoreless frames from Oakland right-hander Daniel Gossett, Franklin Barreto took his shot at Shields. After getting the call several hours prior to Saturday’s game, he became the fastest of the three rookies to record his first big league homer, going yard on a 2-2 changeup and driving in Bruce Maxwell to give the A’s a six-run advantage.
The Athletics currently lead the White Sox 8-2 in the top of the sixth inning.
The Athletics called up their top prospect on Saturday, inserting shortstop Franklin Barreto into the lineup for their second game against the White Sox. Barreto was originally scheduled to make his major league debut on Sunday, but got a head start after Jed Lowrie sustained a minor knee sprain in Friday’s 3-0 win and was scratched from Saturday’s lineup.
Barreto, 21, has been rapidly climbing the rungs of the A’s minor league system after getting dealt by the Blue Jays in 2014. He got his first taste of Triple-A action late last year, going 6-for-17 with three RBI and getting caught stealing in two attempts. He fared little better this spring, slashing .281/.326/.428 with eight home runs and a .754 OPS through his first 309 PA in Nashville.
While his minor league production has been solid, if underwhelming for a prospect of his caliber, the A’s are expected to give the rookie infielder a long leash with both Marcus Semien and Chad Pinder sitting on the disabled list. Pinder landed on the 10-day DL after suffering a left hamstring strain on Friday. Semien, meanwhile, is still working his way back from the 60-day DL with a right wrist fracture and likely won’t rejoin the team until he completes a rehab assignment with High-A Stockton.