09/10/12 8:30 PM ET
Simmons returns to action for Braves
By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com
Simmons missed nearly 60 games after breaking his right pinkie finger sliding headfirst into second base on July 8. After sitting all that time, he will jump back in as the Braves are on a roll and in the middle of the playoff race.
"Now is the time," Simmons said. "Now it's go time. This is where you want to be. You want to be in the race in September. And I'm excited."
In 33 games before the injury, Simmons hit .296 with three home runs and 15 RBIs, while also playing good defense at shortstop.
He had been swinging a hot bat during a Minor League rehab assignment last week, batting .320 with two doubles, two home runs and three RBIs over six games between three stops.
Simmons spent much of his time off taking in knowledge from veteran players, information that he might otherwise have overlooked while playing.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez pointed out the contributions of Paul Janish over the last two months, which helped keep the Braves rolling without Simmons.
"I can't tell you how much we appreciate Janish," Gonzalez said. "For those games that Simmons was gone, Paul Janish saved [us]. And kudos to our professional scouts and front office to go out and get a guy like him."
After four years, Sheets back in Miller Park
MILWAUKEE -- On Monday, four years after his final Brewers win, Ben Sheets returned to the Miller Park mound.
Sheets' return to the ballpark he called home for eight years began with a two-inning simulated game. Though he said he "didn't dominate," the outing went well, a positive step toward getting the 34-year-old right-hander back in a game.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said that Sheets threw between 20 and 30 pitches, but neither was sure of the exact number.
"I had to get three outs. So probably somewhere between 70 and 100 pitches," Sheets joked.
Sheets said that although his shoulder felt good, he "didn't want to show off too much."
After losing three consecutive starts, Sheets went on the 15-day disabled list in late August, hoping to rest for a couple of weeks before regaining his effectiveness. Sheets said that he is willing to contribute in any way possible.
His next appearance will likely be in relief, though he could see a spot start if needed due to a rainout or an injury.
"We'll see where he's at tomorrow and the next day," Gonzalez said. "If he feels good, we'll probably plug him into the bullpen somewhere.
"That's the great thing about him. He told me, 'Whatever you need me to do.'"
Sheets won four of his first five Atlanta starts before losing the next three. The final one, in which he allowed four earned runs over 4 1/3 innings, prompted the decision to rest his fatigued right arm.
Though it might seem that not pitching would make for a bittersweet return to Milwaukee, Sheets doesn't see it that way.
"Couldn't have picked a better day. It's beautiful outside," he said. "I pitched here so long. If I don't have to pitch against them, I'd prefer not to."
Chipper in lineup for opener vs. Brewers
MILWAUKEE -- After sitting out Sunday's series finale against the Mets before pinch-hitting in the ninth, Chipper Jones was back in the lineup on Monday.
Jones rested in his final game in New York as his bothersome left knee had acted up over the weekend, especially following a 75-minute rain delay on Saturday night.
"He was good enough to pinch-hit yesterday," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He feels good."
This series marks the final scheduled trip to Milwaukee for Jones, and the Brewers plan to honor the longtime third baseman prior to Wednesday's game.
Opposing teams have been honoring Jones on the road throughout the season, acknowledging his impressive career and longevity. Gonzalez has enjoyed being along for the ride.
"He's an icon," Gonzalez said. "I think people around baseball know that he played the game the right way. He's darn good. And they appreciate good players. Even New York. I read a funny sign -- it had 'Larry' spelled with three 'R's and three 'Y's, and it said, 'I yell Larry with respect.'"
This week it's the Brewers' turn to continue the yearlong sendoff.
"It's got to be someone like Chipper, that people appreciate the kind of career he's had," Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. "A first-ballot Hall of Famer, no doubt."
To say that Jones is well liked by players around the league would be an understatement.
Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun, who was just 9 years old when Jones made his Major League debut in 1993, played with the 19-year veteran in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The two also were National League teammates for the 2008, 2011 and 2012 All-Star Games.
The reigning NL Most Valuable Player had plenty of good things to say about the 1999 winner of the award. Braun was especially impressed with Jones' speech before this year's Midsummer Classic.
"It's almost more meaningful to hear a speech from a player like that, who we all respect, than from anyone else," Braun said. "It was pretty cool."
Jordan Schelling is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.