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Learning Curve
Tom Verducci
October 01, 2001
It's been a season of dizzying highs and lows for Ben Sheets, the Brewers All-Star rookie pitcher, and SI charted his progress all the way
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October 01, 2001

Learning Curve

It's been a season of dizzying highs and lows for Ben Sheets, the Brewers All-Star rookie pitcher, and SI charted his progress all the way

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JULY 23
MILWAUKEE

Selig-prieb invites Sheets to the club's news conference to unveil its logo for the 2002 All-Star Game, to be played in Miller Park. Sheets became the team's ace in the first half of the season, but as his year deteriorates, so does the Brewers'. Milwaukee, which was 23-17 on May 16, has lost nine in a row to fall to 43-54.

As the event concludes, Sheets tells the media, "I hope somebody out there finds a four-leaf clover for us so that we can win one more game before the year is over."

Afterward Sheets asks Selig-Prieb, "How'd I do?"

She responds, "Ben, you're a natural."

JULY 25
MILWAUKEE

The Brewers have lost 11 in a row. Sheets is scheduled to pitch today against the Dodgers. He is sick to his stomach. It is not the losing streak; it's the anti-inflammatory pills, which make him queasy—even after he's switched to a second, milder medication. Sheets's shoulder and elbow are so tender that he discreetly told Apodaca he would skip his usual bullpen session before this start. Also, though he would like to work on his hitting, the trainers told him not to take extra batting practice because of concern about his shoulder and elbow.

The Brewers give Sheets a 2-0 lead, but it evaporates on home runs by Shawn Green and Gary Sheffield in the fourth inning. Sheffield's homer nearly hits the water-park-style slide of Bernie Brewer, tire team mascot, high in the leftfield seats. A third home run, by Eric Karros in the seventh, gives Los Angeles a 3-2 lead.

" Sheffield doesn't have to wonder anymore how far he can hit a ball," Sheets says after the game. "I threw it right there, and he hit it real good. I made sure I watched that one. I wanted to see how far it would go. He's so quick with his bat. When he hit it, I could hardly see his swing. Then when Karros hit it out, I could see everything. I could see how he brought his bat around into the ball."

Sheffield gave his home run a long look of admiration, a show of hubris that might have annoyed another pitcher. "That macho stuff is overrated," Sheets says. "When a guy hits one like that, I don't care if he does cartwheels around the bases—unless it's like 10-1 or something. He did his job. He should enjoy it. I'm supposed to hit somebody just because somebody hit a home run? I'm sorry. This isn't life and death. This is a game. I'm not going to hurt anybody because somebody else did his job and I didn't. I never understood that.

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