Source: Free-agent Sheets may have elbow surgery

FORT WORTH, Texas — Free agent right-hander Ben Sheets could be headed for elbow surgery after contract negotiations with the Texas Rangers fell through because of the injury.

Texas had been discussing a two-year deal with Sheets, the NL starter in the All-Star game last season, a person familiar with the talks said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the deal never was finalized.

A physical revealed that the torn flexor tendon Sheets sustained last season apparently has not healed, the person said.

Sheets struggled with a sore elbow down the stretch last season for Milwaukee and didn’t pitch in the playoffs. He said then that he had torn a flexor tendon near his right elbow, but insisted that he just needed to rest his ailing arm during the offseason.

Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash declined to comment Thursday, saying any questions needed to be directed to Sheets’ agent, Casey Close.

Ash told earlier Thursday that the Brewers had been talking to Close and baseball officials this week about who would pay for an operation. first reported that the deal with the Rangers was off and that Milwaukee might have to pay for any surgery.

“Nothing more,” Close wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “Still ongoing discussions about what will happen.”

The Rangers first met with Sheets at the winter meetings in Las Vegas. There was another face-to-face meeting two weeks ago in Arlington, when Sheets had dinner with team owner Tom Hicks, team president Nolan Ryan, general manager Jon Daniels, manager Ron Washington and new pitching coach Mike Maddux, who was with Sheets in Milwaukee the past six seasons.

Daniels said Thursday the Rangers were now in a holding pattern.

“We still have a level of interest and have communicated that to Casey,” Daniels wrote in an e-mail. “We’ve agreed to wait to see how Ben’s medical situation plays out before we continue that conversation.”

Sheets went 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA in 31 starts and made $12.1 million last season. He declined Milwaukee’s offer of salary arbitration.

The 30-year-old Sheets has an 86-83 record and a 3.72 ERA in 221 starts with 1,206 strikeouts and 313 walks over the past eight seasons, all in Milwaukee. He has been an All-Star four times.

“There ain’t no uncertainty about next season. I’m going to be fine in the long-term,” Sheets said in October, after the Brewers were eliminated from the playoffs. “Offseason is nothing but rest, and I need it.”

But Sheets has been on the disabled list five times in the past four seasons. He was on the DL with a sprained middle finger last season, and besides the elbow was also bothered by issues with his biceps, groin and hamstring.

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