"I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt I'm not playing again," Sheets said. "No matter what, there is not enough help or money to pull me out of this one."
Sheets had similar thoughts when he underwent Tommy John surgery midway through the 2010 season. He had undergone a major surgical procedure to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow two years earlier. His assumption was that his career was complete.
But after beginning to throw again early this year, Sheets enjoyed an inspiring comeback with the Braves, who lured him out of his two-year retirement in July. He went 4-1 with a 1.41 ERA in his first five starts and then endured three rocky starts before his right shoulder simply became too bothersome in late August.
There was initially some hope that Sheets would need just a couple weeks of rest. But the 34-year-old right-hander's arm strength never returned. Wednesday's start will be the 250th of his career and the first appearance he has made since going on the disabled list in late August.
"I don't think I could have got to the point of throwing six innings again," Sheets said. "I would have liked to have gotten another shot out of the 'pen. But getting another start is cool."
Sheets will attempt to throw two innings on Wednesday. Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran are also expected to throw at least two innings as the Braves prepare for Friday's one-game playoff against the National League's other Wild Card entrant.
Though Sheets has been sidelined for the past five weeks, he has continued to be a good influence within the Braves' clubhouse. The only regret he has regarding this year's experience stems from the fact that he has been forced to spend time away from his wife and children in Louisiana.
"I'd do it again," Sheets said. "I definitely enjoyed it. I had a front-row seat for [Chipper Jones' final games]. Some people paid for that, which was worth it if they did."
Sheets pitched the United States to a gold medal in the 2000 Olympics and then earned four All-Star appearances while playing eight seasons with the Brewers. He will enter Wednesday's start with a 3.78 ERA and 1,323 strikeouts in 1,595 2/3 innings.
"It was better than I thought it was going to be," Sheets said. "God forbid, I had a great career, because this is good enough."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.