Tigers’ Sheffield Shoulders His Fate

By Rob Parker
Updated: October 6, 2007

DETROIT — To say the least, Gary Sheffield was scared.

His injured right shoulder — in intense pain since a July 21 outfield collision — was worse than expected. So much so, that Sheffield, the Tigers’ designated hitter, thought it was going to take full-blown surgery to correct the damage.

“I was concerned when they told me what they found,” Sheffield told The Detroit News on Friday.

Dr. John Uribe, Sheffield said, found bone fragments chipped off his arm and floating around in his shoulder. “And it was multiple, not just one or two,” Sheffield said. “The first thing he said when he saw the X-rays was that he might have to open me up to get it. I was really concerned.”

That’s why Sheffield has no choice but to have surgery Monday in Miami. But Dr. Uribe will perform arthroscopic surgery, not a more involved surgery that first was thought to be needed.

“He said we could go this route and still get it 100 percent,” Sheffield said. “That’s good with me.”

More damage?

Sheffield, however, did wonder if he had contributed to the severity of it by continuing to play.

“The first thing I thought was that I must have done more damage by playing through it,” he said. “And there was benefit of it, just that I’m the one who suffers.

“That was my first thought.”

Sheffield continuing to play shows his commitment to the Tigers. Some wouldn’t have done it. Not just because of the pain but because they wouldn’t want their statistics to suffer. His numbers did take a nosedive after the injury.

“A lot of guys would have never done what I did,” said Sheffield, who is 20 homers away from 500 in his career. “No way. I played to help the team with my presence.”

Sheffield hit just two homers after the injury and finished with a .265 average with 25 homers and 75 RBIs. He just couldn’t get his bat through the zone fast enough to finish his swing and drive the ball.

“I have two more years with this organization and I want them to say that we have a player under contract that we can rely on,” said Sheffield, who will make $28 million the next two years. “That’s how we came up with the conclusion that surgery is the best way.

“In order for me to be Gary Sheffield 100 percent, I have to get through this surgery. I can kind of exhale now.”

Wait and see

Sheffield had talked about whether he would be willing to have another surgery. He has had five shoulder surgeries in 20 years. He will turn 39 in November and wasn’t afraid to talk about retirement — mostly because of the pain of yet another surgery and the rehab work this winter.

Sheffield, who was upbeat and relaxing, hopes all will go well come Monday. He plans to be with his teammates when the Tigers open spring training in Lakeland, Fla. But he also knows, at this point, there’s no guarantee.

“I fully expect to be 100 percent and ready to go,” said Sheffield, who will recuperate in his new home in the Bahamas. “I don’t know if I have no doubt, though.

“I haven’t had the surgery yet and I can’t make a bold statement like that before I’ve had surgery. Anything is a risk when you have surgery. I have to wait and see. I don’t play with fate.”