ATLANTA -- Right-hander Ben Sheets made his first start in nearly two years Wednesday, pitching five innings for Double-A Mississippi. Sheets signed a Minor League contract with the Braves on Sunday and is beginning a comeback with the goal of returning to the Major Leagues later this month.
Sheets allowed four runs on five hits in five innings against Jackson, the Mariners' affiliate. Sheets struck out six batters and walked one. After struggling at the outset of his start, Sheets retired the final 10 batters he faced. Reportedly, Sheets' fastball sat in the low-90s, which matches what the Braves saw when he threw for them before signing.
Sheets is scheduled to make his next start Monday, again with Mississippi. He is expected to throw six innings and 90 pitches. After that start, general manager Frank Wren said the Braves will evaluate his progress. Sheets could join the Braves' rotation when they return from the All-Star break next week.
"We didn't sign him to be a Minor League player," Wren said Sunday. "We signed him to help us here."
Sheets is a four-time All-Star but has missed two of the last three years with elbow injuries. Sheets last pitched in the Major Leagues with the A's in 2010 before undergoing Tommy John surgery in August of that year.
Murphy impressed, but not surprised by Chipper
ATLANTA -- A day after Chipper Jones' five-hit game in the Braves' 10-3 victory over the Cubs on Tuesday night, Turner Field continued to buzz. It was Jones' third five-hit game of his career and his first since Aug. 11, 2002.
Former Braves center fielder Dale Murphy said he was impressed by Jones collecting five hits as a 40-year-old.
"There's something I didn't do at 40," Murphy said about his thoughts Tuesday night. "Then I was thinking, 'Well, I didn't do that at 30 either.'"
Murphy, who is in Atlanta as a part of the TV broadcast crew this week, had two five-hit games in his 18-year career. His last one came as a 28-year-old in 1984.
Murphy said he wasn't surprised Jones rose to the occasion and did something special after being selected to the All-Star Game on Tuesday afternoon.
"He's always liked the big stage," Murphy said. "Chipper's never shied away from it."
Neither of Jones' previous five-hit games came in Atlanta, making Tuesday night extra special for him. After he pulled a single to right field for his fifth hit of the night, manager Fredi Gonzalez removed him for a pinch-runner.
Jones exited to a standing ovation and came back out of the dugout for a curtain call. First baseman Freddie Freeman was at the plate at the time and said he took as much time getting into the batter's box as he could so Jones could have his moment.
"I knew what was going on," Freeman said. "Those nights don't happen very often. I took my time and fixed my [batter's] box like I normally do, and I could hear the crowd, so I took three more steps away from the box. I hoped [pitcher Jairo Asencio] and everybody on the Cubs would understand, and they did. So it was a nice little memory for Chipper of the night."
Jones was back in the lineup Wednesday. Gonzalez said Jones felt good following his big night, but he will likely get a day off in Thursday's series finale against the Cubs.
Freeman dealing with index finger discomfort
ATLANTA -- One month after getting hit by a throw from Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes, Freddie Freeman still feels some discomfort in his left index finger. But the Braves first baseman has gradually learned how to deal with the pain.
"It's as good as it's going to get," Freeman said. "I can make a fist every day. It's really tight when I make a fist, but I can still swing, I can still do everything. I get that little jolt when [shortstop Andrelton] Simmons throws the ball to me. It seems like it slams my finger. But it's not getting any worse and it's not getting any better."
Freeman started to realize some relief after receiving two cortisone shots two weeks ago. He said the plan is for him to receive another injection before he spends next week resting during the All-Star break.
"Hopefully that keeps it down even more so I can play the last three months of the season," Freeman said.
Freeman hit .216 (8-for-37) with two extra-base hits and 12 strikeouts as his finger limited him to just 10 games from June 7-June 24. He has batted .357 (10-for-28) with four extra-base hits and six strikeouts in the eight games that have followed.
Braves celebrate Fourth with flyover, fireworks
ATLANTA -- The Braves celebrated Independence Day with a day of America-themed activities at Turner Field, highlighted by a postgame fireworks display for the second consecutive day.
Pregame festivities included a pregame flyover by four T-6 Texans, a training plane used in World War II and the 1950s. In keeping with the theme, the Braves were set to honor in the sixth inning a local veteran of World War II and the Korean War.
On the field, the Braves wore special hats for the Fourth of July, featuring a camouflage "A" instead of the traditional white.
Catcher Brian McCann was not in the Braves lineup for Wednesday's game against the Cubs. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he wanted to give McCann a day off with left-hander Paul Maholm starting for Chicago. Gonzalez said McCann will likely catch the Braves' last four games before the All-Star break.