Having lost six of their previous seven games, the Braves were not in a position to be patient with Sheets, who has lost three consecutive starts since winning four of his first five. But the club remains hopeful that the 34-year-old pitcher could still be an asset during the final weeks of the regular season.
"It's nothing serious, but maybe the 15 days off could recharge him a little bit and get him back on track," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Because the Braves have been using a six-man rotation, they will not need to add another starter or alter the schedule of their other starting pitchers. Miguel Batista was promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett to take Sheets' roster spot and pitch out of the bullpen.
Sheets felt his career was complete in 2010, when he underwent a second major elbow surgery in a span of two years. But he ended his two-year retirement when he joined Atlanta's rotation after the All-Star break.
"I'm here to help," Sheets said. "I'm not here to do anything else. Whatever we need to do. I know these guys want the guy they had at first."
When Gonzalez opted to go with a six-man rotation during a 13-game stretch that will conclude Wednesday, he felt the need to give a number of his starting pitchers an extra day of rest. One of those pitchers was Sheets, who actually asked for two extra days of rest after first starting to feel some shoulder discomfort leading up to his successful Aug. 6 start in Philadelphia.
The Braves opted not to alter the schedule of their other starting pitchers to simply accommodate this request. But they allowed Sheets to make each of his past three starts with at least one extra day of rest.
"There's some soreness there," Gonzalez said. "I think if we would have gone with a five-man rotation, we might have seen this a little sooner."
Sheets posted a 1.41 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .258 while winning four of five starts. In his past three starts, he has compiled a 7.71 ERA and seen opponents hit .318 against him.
When Sheets did not record a strikeout while limiting the Phillies to one run in 7 1/3 innings on Aug. 6, he was hoping it was a fluke. Instead, it appeared to be a sign of decline. He recorded 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings in his first four starts. In his past four starts, he has had 3.8 strikeouts per nine innings.
"I feel like if I just had, not the extra velocity, just the finish on the ball, it would get by them," Sheets said. "It's just not getting by them. They can foul off my tough pitch."
Sheets allowed four earned runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Giants on Friday night. The results might have been a little different had Eric Hinske secured two long fly balls that resulted in doubles during the two-run third inning. But by the time the outing was over, the veteran pitcher was convinced his pitches did not have the life that they had just a couple of weeks ago.
"Even if they had hit the ball right to people yesterday, that would have been masking the results," Sheets said. "You've got to be able to miss some bats."