By now the Brewers' season is long gone. They were a winning club, 39-38, when Sheets won his 10th game on June 29. Since then they are 8-24-Sheets is 0-5 with an 8.58 ERA during that free fall.
Sheets is out of the rotation for what Lopes hopes will be only one start. "I thought I could pitch through it like I did last year, but all of a sudden I hit the wall. Wham!" Sheets says in the visitors' clubhouse of Shea Stadium.
"First your location goes, and then your velocity goes," he continues. "What's left? But I'm stubborn. I'll keep throwing until my arm falls off if I feel I have a chance to get people out."
Says Apodaca, "He disguised it pretty good. So many young pitchers think they have to keep going out there. They don't want to say anything out of fear for their job. He's learning some tough lessons."
Within a week, Sheets will learn that he has tendinitis in his rotator cuff.
The Brewers are playing out the string, though doing so comfortably in their well-appointed Miller Park clubhouse. They lounge on leather chairs before tonight's game, eating ice cream bars, watching Jerry Springer and The People's Court on two of the six television sets, and prepping for their NFL Rotisserie League season. Nobody seems much interested in baseball anymore.
The pitching staff is in shambles. No member of the original starting rotation has avoided the disabled list. (Even the Brewers' top prospect, Nick Neugebauer, who will make two starts in Sheets's absence, will tear his rotator cuff and need surgery.) The Brewers are also on pace to strike out more times than any other team in history. Sheets, for the first time since Aug. 5, throws off a mound for 10 minutes. Taylor, the G.M., says he expects Sheets to make one or two starts before the season is finished.
"It's the second year in a row he's had a shoulder injury, and we have to face that reality," Taylor says. Asked if the team has any regrets about how late the injury was detected, he replies, "No. He didn't want us to know he was tender. Fortunately, we caught it in time. We still think he has a chance to be a quality top-of-the-rotation starter."