Friday, March 02, 2007

No Ill Effects Evident in Gary Sheffield's Swing

The Tigers new designated hitter Gary Sheffield appears to be well past last year's wrist injury, showing no loss of power, bat speed or other lingering effects either on the field or in the batting cage, according to numerous news accounts.

"...To watch his swing up close on a practice field is a sight," notes writer Jason Beck, who is covering the Tigers Grapefruit League camp. "...When he unleashes that swing on a ball and pulls it over the left-field fence, you know why he can send a ball that far."

Sheffield, 38, who sustained his wrist injury in an on-field collision last year, is coming to terms with the fact that he won't be asked to play right field for his new team, though that's what he would prefer. He'll settle to serve the Tigers as the prime, middle-of-the-order hitman, the team's so-called missing puzzle piece: "That's the only thing that really matters to me; that and the numbers I leave behind..." Sheffield told the Toledo Blade.

Even if Sheffield continued to experience discomfort, it's not likely the staff would hear about it. Sheffield has earned a reputation as a player willing to play with pain, and play through injuries while maintaining his near .300 career batting average and march toward the 500-homer plateau.

The Yankees, for whom Sheffield played last year, offered him a chance to play first base for New York after Bobby Abreu, 33, acquired from the Phillies, was chosen to take Sheffield's place in the outfield. But Sheffield declined, even though he had infield experience, having played shortstop and third base earlier in his career. He has signed with Detroit for $40 million over three years after being acquired in a trade.

Despite advancing age and last year's setback, Sheffield is commonly being projected to bat .280-.290 and put up another 30-40 homers, his usual output. Sheffield believes he has another two or three good years left, maybe more.