ARLINGTON -- Some things just never change.
That proved to be the sentiment around the visiting clubhouse on Friday in Arlington, where the A's were greeted with the all too familiar sound of Ben Sheets' resonating voice.
Sheets was dressed in A's gear as if he'd never left, but he was also sporting a rather complex contraction around his surgically repaired right arm, which underwent repairs to the flexor tendon, pronator tendon and ulnar collateral ligament less than three weeks ago.
Friday marked the first time Sheets was reunited with his green and gold teammates since his Aug. 9 procedure, and, after catching up with most of them, he spent a handful of time reassuring reporters he has not ruled out pitching again.
The 32-year-old righty, who went 4-9 with a 4.63 ERA in 20 starts for Oakland before succumbing to his second elbow surgery in as many years, was only slated to have flexor tendon surgery -- the same procedure he underwent in February 2009. However, orthopedist Dr. Keith Meister determined UCL reconstruction -- otherwise known as Tommy John surgery -- was necessary, as were repairs to the pronator tendon.
"I think he fixed it all," Sheets said on Friday. "It [doesn't] add [any] time to the rehab. It makes it a little tougher to come back, the more stuff you have done, but it [doesn't] add [any] time."
Tommy John surgery involves the replacement of the UCL with another tendon, typically taken from the wrist and forearm area. However, Sheets' wrist tendon proved to be too small, so Meister was forced to try from his leg, which also was too small. Thus, a tendon was taken out of Sheets' left hamstring, leaving him with a good dose of leg pain.
The veteran hurler said he's unclear as to the timetable involved with the rehab process, but 2011 is likely the earliest he could make his way to a mound again.
"Mother Nature's going to do most of the healing," he said. "Time will be the biggest thing. I wouldn't rule anything out, but you never know. I don't have a clue what I'm going to do, to tell you the truth. If I felt like I did last time, there's no way.
"The option is definitely open, but my arm is going to tell me. I'm not going to pitch the way I did this year -- not result-oriented, but just the way I felt. If my arm heals and it feels great, I'm sure I'm going to give it a shot. It's up in the air; it really is."
Sheets plans to continue rehab near his home in Louisiana and take a few days out of each month to consult with Meister -- the Rangers' team physician -- in Texas. His plans right now, though, also include supporting his teammates along the way as they make a late-season push. He'll travel to New York, where the A's begin a four-game set with the Yankees on Monday, and make his way back to Oakland to soak in the clubhouse atmosphere.
"I'm not bored here," he said with a smile. "I'm sure my family thinks it's good, too, because I get on my own nerves.
"I can't miss New York. I ain't been [there] yet. [I] haven't been to Minnesota, either. I'll be with the guys most of the year. I got two kids at home, so I have to be their dad, too. So I'm trying to be in both places."
Sheets said he has enjoyed watching an Oakland pitching staff that has put together a club-tying record of 18 consecutive quality starts. He was widely known around the clubhouse for his mentoring ways, but Sheets wasn't about to take all the credit for their success on Friday.
"They haven't allowed runs all year," he said. "I just like watching them. They're getting deep into games, [manager Bob Geren]'s letting them pitch. You don't see a lot of six-inning starts from them. They're getting seven virtually every night, keeping their pitch count down. Their stuff's so good.
"I just tried to make them feel comfortable. That's the only thing I ever tried to make them do -- try to confidently reinforce how good they are."
Meanwhile, Sheets is attempting to reinforce positive thinking in his own mind as he enters yet another year of rehab.
"The only thing Meister is worried about healing is the flexor tendon, so that tells me what's on the top of the list," he said. "It has more of a track record. I think he's confident the ligament is going to heal, and he's very confident it's all going to heal. He was really excited with the job he'd done, and I saw the pictures and was excited, too. I thought it looked good."