Thursday, March 01, 2007

Brewers Ace Ben Sheets Passed Over for Opener

Projected No. 1 starter Ben Sheets has been passed over for the spring opener at Maryvale, Ariz., and has yet to be scheduled to pitch through the end of the weekend, but it's not because he's unhealthy, according to the team.

"He's 100 percent," General Manager Doug Melvin told, noting that Sheets has been throwing off a mound. Sheets not only is expected to be fully ready by opening day, but is fully ready now, Melvin said. "He looks good; strong."

Still, head trainer Roger Caplinger is going easy with Sheets, who is coming back from an injury marred season in which he went down with shoulder problems after his second start, then came back only to go on the injured list for two months. It was reminiscent of 2005, when Sheets came off the previous year's 237-inning output and sparkling 2.70 ERA, signed a $38.5 million contract then went down with an ear infection, then came back only to miss the rest of the season with back problems at the end of August.

If Sheets can rediscover his 2004 form, the Brewers may turn out to be one of the biggest surprises of the new season with a punched up offense and new acquisition Jeff Suppan joining
Sheets and Chris Capuano at the top of the rotation.

For now Claudio Vargas, newly acquired from Arizona, will head the rotation as the team heavily weighs his chances to hold down the No. 5 rotation spot.