Sheets had to leave the Brewers' game on Wednesday against the Cubs after only two innings because of severe pain in the elbow, which has bothered him the last few weeks. An MRI found no ligament damage, and Sheets is hoping the pain subsides after a few days of rest.
Normally he would have started next Tuesday, but that plan has been scratched. Interim manager Dale Sveum said Friday that he's dropped Sheets from his pitching plans for next week because of the uncertainty over his elbow. Sheets hasn't given up on pitching again.
"I think Tuesday is far-fetched," he said, "but definitely not the rest of the year. I think that's very possible."
Sheets' injury is a significant setback to the Brewers, who were already in a free fall. They entered play Friday having lost 13 of 17, a slump that cost them their lead in the wild-card race and prompted the firing of manager Ned Yost. Milwaukee opened a series against the Cincinnati Reds on Friday trailing the Mets by 1½ games for the wild card.
Right-hander Seth McClung was scheduled to pitch the series opener against the Reds, but pitched two innings in relief during a 12-inning, 7-6 loss to the Cubs on Thursday. Jeff Suppan took his place, going a day ahead of schedule. CC Sabathia also will move up a day and start Saturday's game.
"We felt CC on three days' rest was as good an option as we have," Sveum said. "CC's all for it and ready to go. It wasn't a tough sell."
Sabathia skipped his usual between-starts bullpen session on Thursday, figuring he might have his start pushed up. The only other time in his career that he went on three days of rest was 2001 with Cleveland, when the Indians let him go five innings in the last week of the season to set up their playoff rotation.
"I know we're kind of hurting and we've got some guys down, so I'll try to help us get to the playoffs," Sabathia said. "Every game for us right now is pretty much like a playoff game. You've got to try to win that game that day, whatever it takes."
Sheets expects to throw on Tuesday to see how the elbow feels. He's confident that the ligament is fine for now, but worries that he could damage it by trying to pitch through too much pain.
"Oh sure," he said. "Anytime you go through it, your muscles aren't firing properly [and] other things have to take the stress."
Sheets will be a free agent after the season, along with Sabathia. Sheets said that wouldn't prevent him from pitching against the Cubs next weekend if the elbow feels better.
"If I feel I can pitch, I don't worry about next year -- almost a stupidity factor, I guess," he said.