07/14/08 1:15 PM ET
Sheets to shoulder load as NL starter
Righty first Brewers pitcher to get opening nod in All-Star Game
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
"I'm going to take the opportunity to see everything like what do they call them, the monuments?" Sheets said referring to Monument Park, where the Yankees honor their legends. "I'm going to do a sightseeing tour and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it."
When he travels to the Stadium on Tuesday, it will be a business trip, as he will be the National League starter for the 79th All-Star Game.
"His pedigree speaks for itself," NL manager Clint Hurdle said. "He brings his lunch pail to work every day, he takes the ball, he's no-nonsense, blue collar, I like everything about him, I've liked him for a long time. It was the perfect match for me."
The Louisiana native will be the first Brewers pitcher to start an All-Star Game. He has made three other All-Star Game appearances in 2001, 2004 and 2007 and has not allowed a run in 2 1/3 innings.
"I know for a fact he's probably the most popular man in Louisiana today," Sheets said of Hurdle. "I'm really looking forward to this opportunity. It's the last All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium history, it will be an honor."
Limited by injuries the past three seasons, Sheets, who turns 30 later this month, has been a horse for the Brewers in 2008 as he leads the NL in complete games with three. In 18 starts this season, Sheets put together an impressive resume to earn the start. He is 10-3 with a 2.85 ERA and ranks in the Top 10 in the National League in wins, ERA, strikeouts, WHIP (walks plus hits/innings pitched) and strikeout/walk ratio among other categories.
Sheets made a strong case to Hurdle last Wednesday when he struck out 11 batters from the Rockies skipper's squad in just six innings.
"I got to take a good look at Ben in the middle of the week up close and personal," Hurdle said. "The fact that he struck out 11 of us in six innings kind of got my eye. I'm real slow, but I pick up on some things real quick. We kept swinging and missing. I thought that was a pick to start the All-Star Game."
One thing that worked in Sheets' favor was that he had not pitched since that game against the Rockies, which meant he was the most well-rested of the candidates Hurdle had to choose from.
Other pitchers considered, such as Brandon Webb, Tim Lincecum and Edinson Volquez, pitched over the weekend. Volquez tossed 114 pitches for the Reds on Saturday, while Webb threw 108 for the D-backs and Lincecum 116 for the Giants on Sunday.
Sheets' pitching is one of the reasons the Brewers find themselves in the thick of the playoff race. A first-round pick by Milwaukee in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft, Sheets will be a free agent at the end of the season.
While pitching in Yankee Stadium will be a new experience for him, Sheets is no stranger to the big stage. In 2000 he was a member of the U.S. Olympic team that captured the gold medal in Sydney.
Sheets won the gold medal game for the U.S., tossing a complete-game shutout against the favored Cuban national team. He was dominant in the game, as he allowed just three hits and only one batter got as far as second base against him.
"I haven't really had time to put in perspective where it ranks, but I know it ranks right up there among the top," Sheets said of the All-Star starting assignment. "It's something I didn't really think about, but right before I left, a lot of my teammates really wanted me to get this opportunity, and I think the more they asked me the more I realized how big of an opportunity this could be, how thrilling this could be. I'm really looking forward to going out there on the mound and putting my best foot forward."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.