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Published: Tuesday, 3/31/2009

Tigers release Sheffield, who s 1 HR away from 500

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT Gary Sheffield s next home run will be his 500th in the major leagues.

The question is: What uniform will he be wearing when he hits it?

The Detroit Tigers released the nine-time All-Star on Tuesday, leaving him without a team as he closes in on becoming the 25th player to reach the milestone.

The slugger s stay in Detroit was a disappointing one. The team was hopeful Sheffield would be a powerful presence at the plate in the final season of the $28 million, two-year contract extension it gave him after acquiring him from the Yankees for prospects.

But Sheffield failed to deliver in large part because he often was injured.

The move came a day after the Tigers acquired outfielder Josh Anderson from Atlanta, forcing the team to make some tough decisions about its roster a week ahead of opening the season in Toronto.

Sheffield, 40, had a .178 batting average in 18 spring training games this year. The designated hitter had eight hits including five home runs in 45 at-bats.

An e-mail seeking comment was sent to Sheffield on Tuesday, and a telephone message was left with his representative.

Shoulder and assorted other injuries and perhaps age limited Sheffield to 114 games and a .225 average last year and 133 games and a .265 average two seasons ago with the Tigers.

Sheffield said he didn t need surgery in the offseason for the first time in several years, making him feel better during spring training than he has been since 2001.

His uncle, Doc Gooden, and other family members had planned to attend Detroit s season-opening series, hoping to watch him reach 500.

Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Frank Robinson and Reggie Jackson are the only players in baseball history with as many home runs as Sheffield plus at least 2,500 hits, 1,500 RBIs and 200 stolen bases.

In All-Star games, he has represented San Diego, Florida, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta and the Yankees, since making his debut two decades ago in Milwaukee.

The career .292 hitter has 1,633 RBIs, putting him 27th on the all-time list.



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