Free-agent pitcher Ben Sheets is leaning toward elbow surgery that would probably keep him out for most, if not all, of the 2009 season, according to a major league source familiar with Sheets' medical prognosis.
The surgery would repair the torn flexor tendon in his pitching elbow that kept Sheets from pitching for the Brewers in the NLDS and limited him to just two abbreviated starts over the final 2½ weeks of the regular season. The normal recovery time from the procedure, according to the source, is nine to 10 months.
Milwaukee assistant GM Gord Ash told MLB.com that the Brewers have been in discussions with Sheets' agent, Casey Close, and representatives from Major League Baseball about who would pay for Sheets' surgery.
Ash told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick that Milwaukee's team doctors have yet to examine Sheets. He said the club has heard for several days from people "inside and outside of baseball" that Sheets might need surgery but that the Brewers have yet to receive a definitive answer to that question.
"We're still early in the process, and given the delicate nature of this, there's nothing more I can say," Ash said. "We don't have the answers to a number of questions yet. We don't have all the details. As soon as we collect all the details, we'll go from there."
Close declined to comment when reached by ESPN.com.
The injury had not previously been believed to be serious. And in fact, some teams that had pursued Sheets this winter seemed to be more concerned about his shoulder than his elbow.
But it's believed the actual nature of the injury was uncovered after he failed a physical given by the Rangers' physicians, after tentatively agreeing to a two-year contract with Texas.
When reached by ESPN.com, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels would not confirm the contract agreement and said he would not comment on Sheets' medical condition.
Daniels would say only: "It's no secret we've had interest in Ben, and we remain interested under the right circumstances. But as far as his medical situation is concerned, we have no comment."
Sheets' condition was first reported by MLB.com.
Senior writer Jayson Stark covers baseball for ESPN.com. Information from ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick and ESPN's Peter Gammons was used in this report.