By David Brandt/The Associated Press
PEARL — Ben Sheets says he’s ready to help the Atlanta Braves.
The four-time All-Star gave up three runs in 5 2-3 innings on Monday night during his second start with the Double-A Mississippi Braves. The big-league Braves are looking for help on their pitching staff after an injury-riddled and inconsistent first half of the season, and Sheets said he’s ready to get the call.
“If that’s what happens, I’ll be ready to go,” Sheets said. “It’s more mental than anything, and my mind’s right. I feel like I can conquer any challenge in front of me.”
The 33-year-old right-hander threw 89 pitches, including 58 strikes, in the Southern League game against Birmingham. Only two runs were earned.
He allowed seven hits — all singles — while striking out four. His fastball was consistently around 90-91 mph.
“I felt like I belonged out there (in the sixth inning) and I could have stayed out there and continued to compete,” Sheets said. “I don’t think people realize how far along I am.”
Sheets said he felt confident with his devastating curveball, which helped him become a star with the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2000s, but was still hoping to gain a little more velocity on his fastball during the next few weeks.
“There’s a tick or two I’m still looking for, but I think it’s going to come,” Sheets said. “I felt good out there.”
Sheets started on a roll, retiring the first five batters and allowing an unearned run through five innings. But he ran into trouble in the sixth, giving up a single and hitting a batter before being lifted with two outs. Both runners eventually scored.
Sheets gave up four runs in five innings in his first Double-A start on Wednesday.
Atlanta is searching for pitching depth after Brandon Beachy tore an elbow ligament. Beachy was 5-5 over 13 starts with a 2.00 ERA, tied for lowest in the majors.
Sheets last pitched in the majors with Oakland in 2010. He was 4-9 with a 4.53 ERA in 20 starts before an elbow injury ended his season.
He played for Milwaukee from 2001-2008, going 86-83 with a 3.72 ERA.
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