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Sheets expects to have surgery soon

Posted on: February 5, 2009 2:48 pm
Edited on: February 5, 2009 2:54 pm

Ben Sheets, the injury-plagued, free-agent starting pitcher, is expected to undergo elbow surgery and be sidelined for four to six months, according to sources.

The surgery, to repair Sheets' partially torn flexor tendon, is expected to be performed by noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. A source with knowledge of the situation said that Sheets is not expected to undergo Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.

Still, the elbow surgery likely will keep Sheets on the sidelines until August, or later. The right-hander was prepared to undergo surgery this week, according to sources, but those plans hit a snag over insurance issues and who would pay for it.

Sheets' agent, Casey Close, could not be reached for comment, but sources say that he maintains Milwaukee should pay for the surgery since the injury stems from his time with the Brewers. While that dispute is resolved, Sheets now hopes to have the surgery next week, sources say.

The news comes late in a winter that Sheets and many other free agents have found to be exceptionally cold, and it helps explain why several conversations between the right-hander and the Texas Rangers have yet to evolve into a contract.

Talks between the Rangers and Sheets reached an impasse within the past several days, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions. The two sides were close to agreement on a two-year deal, according to a major-league source, but they already had concerns regarding the right-handers' checkered health history. It is believed that the physical examination revealed the tear and caused the Rangers to scotch the deal.

Sheets' elbow became sore last September during a season in which the right-hander worked 198 innings -- his highest total since 2004. But he came up lame down the stretch and surrendered 10 runs and 15 hits in just over 10 innings of his final three starts. He was unable to pitch in Milwaukee's first-round playoff series loss to Philadelphia.

Since 2001, Sheets, 30, has spent time on the disabled list with right rotator cuff tendinitis, a severe inner-ear infection, a torn back muscle, a right shoulder strain, tendinitis in his right shoulder and a sprained right middle finger.

In eight seasons with the Brewers, Sheets has compiled an 86-83 career record with a 3.72 ERA. When he's healthy, Sheets has the stuff of a staff ace. But staying healthy has been his biggest challenge.

Sheets was 13-9 with a 3.01 ERA in 31 starts for the Brewers in 2008 and was the National League's starting pitcher in the All-Star Game. He also earned $11 million in the final season of a four-year, $38.5 million deal.

The Brewers offered him arbitration in December and, had he accepted, he likely would have gotten a raise from that $11 million for 2009. However, while Sheets' departure saved the Brewers some money, news of his likely impending surgery before he signed a free agent contract will cost Milwaukee draft picks. The Brewers were to receive two compensatory picks from the team signing Sheets.


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