Gallardo coming back, Sheets in limbo

Gallardo coming back, Sheets in limbo

MILWAUKEE -- In one breath, acting Brewers manager Dale Sveum says he is "very optimistic" that Ben Sheets will start one of the team's remaining regular season games. In the next breath, Sveum said it would take a "minor miracle."

Sheets' fuzzy future aside, Sveum and pitching coach Mike Maddux have settled on a starting rotation for the remainder of the season. Sveum said Wednesday that right-hander Yovani Gallardo will start Thursday's series finale against the Pirates, Gallardo's first outing since undergoing right knee surgery in May. Jeff Suppan will start Friday's opener against the Cubs, followed by either Sheets or Dave Bush on short rest Saturday. Sveum could then use CC Sabathia for a third consecutive short-rest start on Sunday, but only if that game remains relevant to Milwaukee's postseason hopes.

Sheets played catch with Maddux on Wednesday, one week after exiting a start at Chicago after two innings because of what he called tendinitis in his right elbow.

"We're still optimistic -- very optimistic about that," Sveum said. "It would take some small miracle, I think for that to happen, but I'm very optimistic about it right now."

Sheets was equally vague.

"If 'very optimistic' is what he said, than that's it," Sheets said. "He's the boss. I've been saying the same thing."

Sheets was the National League's All-Star Game starter and is 13-9 for the Brewers this season with a 2.98 ERA. He is three innings shy of his first 200-inning campaign since 2004.

He had been hurting since an Aug. 24 start at St. Louis but the injury was not revealed to reporters or broadcasters. Sheets received a cortisone shot at some point and also underwent an MRI scan that revealed no structural damage in his elbow.

He is a first-time free agent at the end of the season.

"It's an everyday thing," Sheets said when asked for his current status. "We just see how it feels. You've got to listen to your body. If we can get it back to where it was even two weeks ago, that would be good enough."

Said Maddux: "Every day is better, so as the days move, the more we know."

Gallardo has not pitched in a game since May 1, when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a game at Wrigley Field. He will be available for about 70 pitches, Sveum said.

Next up is Suppan who is 0-3 in three September starts with a 10.47 ERA. He is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in two starts against the Cubs but Sveum favored that matchup because Chicago is "a right-handed dominant team." Never mind that right-handed batters have hit Suppan at a .311 clip this season while lefties have hit .280.

That the Brewers are struggling to piece together a starting rotation is stunning considering the way the team breezed through a 20-7 August. Sheets' injury, Suppan's struggles and the decision to limit Manny Parra's innings have thrown the staff into relative disarray.

"Every day is different," Maddux said. "It's been a fire drill."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.