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.
Mets’ left-hander Steven Matz will miss his Grapefruit League appearance on Monday after experiencing soreness in his left elbow, according to a report by Mike Puma of the New York Post. Matz reportedly first felt discomfort in his elbow on Wednesday after pitching four innings against the Marlins, but a medical evaluation revealed no structural damage.
Still, it’s unsettling news for the 25-year-old, who is coming off of an injury-riddled 2016 season. Matz pitched to a 3.40 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 8.8 SO/9 during his sophomore campaign with the Mets, but his success was hampered by a bevy of shoulder and elbow issues that culminated in season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs from his left elbow.
Comments from Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson indicated that while the club doesn’t believe anything is significantly wrong with Matz’s elbow this time around, the setback could have an impact on his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster. Until he’s cleared to return to the mound, the club is expected to take a longer look at rotation candidates Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo.
Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.
Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).
Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.