Thursday, April 2, 2009
Updated: April 3, 2:09 PM ET
Reds eye Sheffield as role player
ESPN.com news services
SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Cincinnati Reds have an interest in free agent Gary Sheffield, but only if he'll accept a limited role.
Manager Dusty Baker said Thursday that he plans to talk to Sheffield, whom he has known for many years. Baker acknowledged that the 40-year-old outfielder would have to accept a limited role with the Reds, who are set in the outfield. Sheffield could pinch hit and be a fill-in at first base and in the outfield with Cincinnati.
Rufus Williams, the agent for Sheffield, told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney on Thursday that "a number of teams have expressed interest, and we're still fielding calls."
The Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies are known to have serious interest in Sheffield, who was released by the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday after he batted only .178 in spring training. It may be, however, that no team will offer Sheffield a full-time spot.
"This is kind of late before the start of the season, and teams have been setting their rosters," Williams told Olney. "It would be odd for us to expect that [a guaranteed full-time job]. What we are looking for are opportunities for Gary to get sufficient playing time. ... He is far from being put out to pasture."
Williams said he doubted that Sheffield would make a decision before Friday.
"Gary is going to be able to play this season. He is going to be able to play a couple more seasons, at least," Williams said.
Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Tuesday that the Phillies had initial talks with Sheffield's camp, and he wanted to gauge whether the nine-time All-Star would be comfortable in a reserve role.
Asked if he knew for sure if Sheffield would have a starting position or would be a role player, Williams said: "I think no matter what happens, he'll have some opportunities.
"I think we'll see, we'll see how these things play out. We'll see if that is starting or coming off the bench."
Sheffield is one shy of becoming only the 25th player in major league history to have 500 home runs.
Any team can sign Sheffield for the $400,000 minimum, with Detroit paying the rest of his $14 million salary.
Williams would not say exactly how many clubs are interested in Sheffield, but he did say it was "several teams."
Sheffield is currently in the process of being waived, and Williams was not sure if he would be on a roster by Opening Day.
"I think he can, it's a question of whether he will," he said.
Besides the Phillies, some in baseball are speculating whether Sheffield would be a good fit with the Braves, where he had good a experience from 2002 to '03 and was liked by manager Bobby Cox.
Sheffield was last an All-Star with the New York Yankees in 2005 when he hit .291 with 34 homers and 123 RBIs. He is a lifetime .292 hitter. From 1999 to 2005, he batted .307 and averaged 35 home runs and 110 RBIs.
In two seasons with the Tigers, however, Sheffield batted .247 and averaged 22 home runs and 66 RBIs.
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN The Magazine senior writer Buster Olney contributed to this report.