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Jayson Stark of ESPN.com is reporting that Sheets (elbow) will not be physically able to pitch in the big leagues this season.
He underwent the same flexor tendon surgery in August of 2007 and wasn't able to return for a year and a half. Sheets' procedure was performed in February. Three teams have shown interest in Sheets, and he could possibly sign on later this year with a club he could help next season.
The answer is that free agent right-hander Ben Sheets intends to undergo surgery to repair the torn flexor tendon in his elbow, and his former employers may be asked to pick up the tab. Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said on Thursday morning that the team has been in discussions this week with Sheets' agent and league officials about who would pay for such a procedure.
"We're working our way through all of the details and we don't know the answer yet," Ash said. "Major League Baseball has regulations related to workers' comp and there are procedures and protocols that have to be respected. We're working our way through those so I can't give you much insight other than that."
Sheets' agent, Casey Close, did not return a telephone message left at his office on Thursday. He did speak to SI.com later in the day and confirmed that Sheets plans to undergo surgery with hope of pitching during the second half of the 2009 season.
That marked a dramatic shift from just one week ago. The Texas Rangers and Sheets reached an agreement on a two-year contract late last week and only a physical stood in the way of the deal being completed. But everything changed once it was determined that Sheets might require surgery.
The Rangers could still pursue Sheets, who turns 31 in July, with a deal that would allow him to do his rehabilitation work with them in hopes that he would eventually pitch at a high level again. But that doesn't appear likely.
"We've maintained contact but I'm not optimistic at this point," general manager Jon Daniels said Thursday morning.
Daniels declined to discuss Sheets' physical and health situations.
While the matter of who pays for Sheets' surgery remained up for debate on Thursday, there is no doubt that he was injured while a Brewers employee. Sheets in fact worked much of the second half of the 2008 season with elbow pain and only revealed the torn flexor tendon in October, when he was left off
At the time, according to Ash, the medical prognosis was that, "with rest and exercise and rehab, he should be fine."
Asked if there was any talk of surgery at that time, Ash replied simply, "None."
The team was so comfortable with that diagnosis that it extended a Dec. 2 offer of arbitration to Sheets, who is a free agent for the first time in his career. Had Sheets accepted that offer, he would have been considered a signed player for 2009 at a salary to be determined, almost certainly higher than the $11 million he earned in 2008, when he finished 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA in 31 starts.
The Brewers had dispatched assistant athletic trainer Dan Wright to
While Sheets rehabbed, Close was seeking a multi-year contract for his client for significant guaranteed dollars. The Yankees showed some interest before they signed A.J. Burnett and then re-signed Andy Pettitte, and the Rangers emerged thereafter as Sheets' most serious suitors.