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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sheets Intends to Test Free Agency

Ben Sheets confirmed Tuesday that he has every expectation of testing the free-agent market this winter.

“That’s the direction I’m headed right now,” Sheets said. “You can’t invite yourself back.”

The Milwaukee Brewers’ staff ace referred to the club’s decision not to try to negotiate a new deal before or during the 2008 season. General manager Doug Melvin has said on more than one occasion that he preferred not to address Sheets’ contract status until after the season.

That decision was based in large part on the series of injuries Sheets suffered during the first three years of the four-year, $38.5 million deal he signed before the 2005 season. Melvin figured it was in the best interests of all involved to see how Sheets fared this season first before broaching a new deal.

Sheets is having the kind of year that every free agent-to-be covets. After tossing a complete-game four-hitter Monday night against Atlanta, he is 9-1 with a 2.59 earned run average through 15 starts, with a league-best three complete games.

Now, even if the Brewers came calling with a new offer, Sheets admitted that he probably wouldn’t listen.

“In all honesty, that would be pretty tough (not to test the market),” he said. “We’re getting pretty deep (into the season). It would be hard not to (test the market), especially when you start putting together a (big) year.”

The Brewers became skittish about another long-term commitment because Sheets has had so much trouble staying healthy. Beginning with a torn muscle behind his pitching shoulder in August 2005, it had been one thing after another, including various shoulder ailments, inner ear disorders and a finger injury.

After making 34 starts each year from 2002-’04, Sheets was limited to 22 in 2005, 17 in 2006 and 24 last season.

Asked how he felt about the decision not to negotiate, Sheets said, “You got it from the main man. My mind is always open to anything. That’s all I can say about it.”

Reported by Tom Haudricourt JSOnline

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