Fans armed with pens, cameras and camcorders fill the hotel lobby at all hours. Radio stations carpet-bomb Sheets's room with interview requests. Major League Baseball has dozens of baseballs for him to sign. There is a press conference in which the All-Stars sit at tables in a ballroom. "What are you looking to take in at your first All-Star Game?" one reporter asks Sheets.
"Food," he deadpans.
Another reporter asks him, "Who are you looking forward to seeing here?"
"My mom and dad. I haven't seen them since February." He is not kidding this time.
A few weeks after the All-Star Game, in which the only batter he faced, Mike Sweeney, popped up an adrenaline-boosted 97-mph heater, Sheets says, "Don't get me wrong. It was an honor to be picked, but it's so hectic. I can see why guys who have been there a few times would rather stay home and take the days off." No, Sheets did not tramp down to the lobby at 2 a.m. to sign the autograph.
There is trouble on Sheets's 23rd birthday. While throwing in the bullpen between starts, he feels soreness and a grabbing sensation in his right shoulder. He experienced a similar feeling, though not this pronounced, in his last start before the All-Star break, a 7-2 loss to St. Louis. He had a similar sensation in June last year and pitched through it with the help of anti-inflammatory medicine. His elbow is sore too. He tells a team trainer. He asks for and receives anti-inflammatory pills, which are nearly as common as aspirin among pitchers. No one else is informed of Sheets's discomfort—not Lopes, not Apodaca, not the front office.
Two days after the ominous bullpen session in Los Angeles, Sheets is pounded by the Padres. They batter him for nine runs on nine hits and two walks in fewer than four innings. Sheets actually cracks a small smile when Lopes comes to the mound to ask for the baseball. "Here," Sheets says. "The good thing is I don't think there are any more hits left in it."
Later, he explains, "There wasn't a drop-off in my velocity. It was location. I couldn't put the ball where I wanted it. That's what happens when your shoulder grabs you as you reach back and it grabs you again as you try to extend to throw the ball. I couldn't finish my pitches. When you can't do that, you can't locate. You might get away with that in the minors. But the hitters are too good up here."