Baseball Notebook: Philadelphia interested in Sheffield after Detroit releases him

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers released nine-time All-Star Gary Sheffield on Tuesday, leaving him without a team when he is one home run from becoming the 25th player to hit 500 career homers.

The World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies, however, quickly called the slugger to see if there is a fit.

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 RBI and 200 stolen bases.

Sheffield said he was “surprised” at being released: “To do this when somebody is one home run away …”

Jim Leyland, the Tigers manager, said he had a hard time sleeping Monday night, knowing he was going to release Sheffield.

“I lit two Marlboros at the same time,” Leyland said. “I couldn’t sleep.”

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

Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said the team talked to Sheffield and his agent. Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth start in the outfield, and the Phillies aren’t sure whether Sheffield would agree to be a backup.

Any team can sign Sheffield for the $400,000 minimum, with Detroit paying the rest of his $14 million salary.


KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Chipper Jones and Atlanta agreed Tuesday to a $42 million, three-year contract extension through 2012, a deal with an option that could become worth up to $61 million over four seasons. The agreement virtually guarantees that the 36-year-old Jones, a six-time All-Star, will play his entire career in an Atlanta uniform.


CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies released Geoff Jenkins, 31, who had a key hit for them in Game 5 of last year’s World Series. Jenkins hit .246 with 9 home runs and 29 RBI last season. The outfielder’s double in the first at-bat of the resumption of Game 5 of the World Series led to the go-ahead run. The Tampa Bay Rays later tied the score, but the Phillies went on to win and secure their first World Series title in 28 years.


GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Pitcher Juan Lara will be back in a Cleveland Indians minor league uniform this week after he was nearly killed in a car crash. His car had stopped at a traffic light when it was hit by a speeding motorcycle in November 2007. He was heading home after playing in the winter league in his native Dominican Republic. The accident left Lara with severe brain trauma, a fractured spine, two broken ribs, a broken arm and a punctured lung.


PHOENIX — The Kansas City Royals have optioned right-hander Luke Hochevar to Class AAA Omaha, increasing the chances Sidney Ponson will fill a slot in their starting rotation.


NEW YORK — The new Yankee Stadium won’t sound nearly the same on opening day. Bob Sheppard, the longtime voice of the New York Yankees, will miss the start of the season while he continues to recover from a bronchial infection. Now in his late 90s, Sheppard became the public-address announcer at the old Yankee Stadium in 1951. He missed last season because of his illness.

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