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ANTA -- Ben Sheets came to Thursday's Braves game against the Diamondbacks as a fan, sitting in the left-field seats. He was in town with his 9-year-old son's baseball team, which played a tournament in suburban Atlanta earlier in the week.
Before he took the team to Turner Field, however, Sheets threw a five-inning simulated game at Georgia Tech. Five teams had scouts in attendance, including the Braves, whose contingent included general manager Frank Wren, assistant general manager Bruce Manno and director of professional scouting John Coppolella.
Sheets had been impressive on the mound, and the Braves were interested in signing him. So Sheets spent a few innings with his agent in Wren's suite and they began to negotiate. The two sides tentatively agreed to terms Saturday night and, after a physical in Atlanta on Sunday morning, Sheets signed a Minor League contract with the Braves.
Sheets has not pitched since 2010 and has missed two of the last three years with arm injuries. But he will return to the mound Wednesday at Double-A Mississippi, where he is scheduled to throw five innings and 75 pitches. After another start for Mississippi, Wren said the Braves will reevaluate Sheets' progress. But they expect him to be pitching in Atlanta soon.
"He's a guy, if the progression goes as we hope, that could join our rotation in the next few weeks," Wren said.
Sheets has not pitched a full season since 2008. That year, he was named to the National League All-Star team and went 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA for the Brewers. Since then, Sheets has twice injured his right elbow and has undergone Tommy John surgery. In between injuries, Sheets pitched 119 1/3 innings for the Athletics in 2010. He went 4-9 with a 4.53 ERA.
Wren said Sheets' injuries don't concern the Braves. He noted Sheets' last surgery was 22 months ago, which has given him plenty of time to recover.
"The type of surgeries he had, he had flexor tendon and Tommy John, we've got a lot of experience with elbow surgeries over the years, every organization does," Wren said. "So we have a good comfort level that he'll bounce back."
For his part, Sheets said he trusts his arm. He threw in the low-90s in his simulated game and again felt good when he threw a bullpen session at Turner Field on Sunday. Sheets said he feels better than he has since mid-2008.
"[You] feel like the sky's the limit whenever your arm feels good, when you feel like you had back in the older times," Sheets said. "I'm not telling you I'm throwing 100, but the ball's coming out of my hand really good."
Wren said expects Sheets to bolster the Braves' rotation, which he said hasn't been as consistent as he would like.
"We feel like we're getting a quality Major League pitcher prior to the [Trade Deadline] without having to give up any talent," Wren said. "Really, it's the best of all worlds from our situation."