MILWAUKEE -- Acting Brewers manager Dale Sveum apparently got the "small miracle" he was looking for. Ben Sheets is penciled in to start for the Brewers on Saturday. "We're going to give it a try," said Sheets, who was doubtful because of a sore right elbow. As late as Thursday night, Sveum said he would probably use Dave Bush on short rest in place of Sheets, who has not pitched since exiting a two-inning stint at Chicago on Sept. 17, which then revealed the elbow injury.
Sveum's outlook changed at some point in a 24-hour period between Sheets' bullpen session on Thursday and Sveum's meeting with reporters on Friday afternoon. That's despite the fact Sheets was "not really" feeling any better than he did the day before. "If I can't pitch, I can't pitch, and that's the bottom line," Sheets said. "If I can pitch, I'm going to pitch. For me to sit here and act like I'm this big hero, no, I'm not. If my arm lets me pitch, I'm going to go out there and pitch the best I can. If it doesn't, then I'm not going to pitch. Right now, it feels like it's going to let me go, and I'm going to go out there and give it what I've got." Sveum decided to name Sheets his starter after a conversation on Friday. "He looked me in the eye and said he feels as good as he has in a month," Sveum said. "We'll ride it out and see how he does." If something does not feel right, Sveum expects Sheets to say so. "He will," Sveum said. "He knows what's at stake." Sheets is a free agent after the season, and there was some concern that he had thrown his final pitch in a Brewers uniform after eight seasons with the team and four All-Star appearances. Regardless of the outcome Friday night, when Jeff Suppan started for Milwaukee, Saturday will be a crucial game for the Brewers, who entered their final regular-season series tied with the Mets for the National League Wild Card. Sheets is 13-8 this season with a 2.98 ERA, and is 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA in four starts against the Cubs. He would be followed Sunday by CC Sabathia on short rest, assuming the Brewers do not clinch or get eliminated before then. Bush will be at the ready on Saturday should Sheets falter. It was evident in Sheets' start at Wrigley Field that something was up. Sveum said his velocity suddenly dropped from 93 mph to 88 mph, and Sheets stepped off the mound after his warm-up tosses in the middle of the second inning and threw over twice to third base. Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez greeted Sheets in that inning with a solo home run, but Sheets escaped further damage, and the Brewers eventually earned Sveum his first managerial win. "If I can't go out there and move the ball to where it needs to go, it does nobody any good," Sheets said. "You can't go in there and lob it because they're not Little League hitters. So when I go out there [Saturday], I expect to have my best stuff." Does he worry about the risk of further injury? "How can't you?" Sheets asked. "There's always a risk of injuring yourself further. That's a risk we always take when we go to play baseball."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.