published Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Ben Sheets says he's ready to help Atlanta Braves

PEARL, Miss. -- Ben Sheets says he's ready to help the Atlanta Braves.

The four-time major league All-Star gave up three runs in 5 2/3 innings Monday night during his second start with the Class AA 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," he said after a 10-inning 6-5 win over the Birmingham Barons. "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. 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 last 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 to '08, going 86-83 with a 3.72 ERA.

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