MILWAUKEE -- More than one Brewers fan has wondered aloud over the past week whether Ben Sheets' lingering injury actually opens the door for his return to Milwaukee. According to the team's general manager, the answer is no. "There's probably logic to it, but it's not going to happen," said Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin, who believes that Sheets "has some other avenues he's looking at."
Sheets, a free agent who was close to signing a two-year contract with the Texas Rangers, instead will undergo surgery to repair a torn tendon near his right elbow. Because Sheets originally suffered that injury in a Brewers uniform, Milwaukee may need to foot the bill for the surgery and perhaps the subsequent rehabilitation. Brewers officials were consulting with Sheets' agent, Casey Close, and Major League Baseball officials to resolve the matter of who pays for the procedure and its aftermath. Melvin still will not say whether that matter had been settled, instead referring all questions to Close, who has not returned a number of calls. In the wake of the surgery news, some wondered whether it could make sense for Sheets and the Brewers to strike a new agreement, say on a two-year deal with a low 2009 salary and a higher figure for 2010. That way, according to this line of thinking, Sheets could rehabilitate his arm in familiar surrounds and then try to re-establish his market value with a strong comeback. But Melvin, who last spoke with Close in early January, said he doesn't see it happening. Close did speak to SI.com last week and confirmed Sheets' planned surgery, saying that Sheets aimed to pitch during the second half of 2009. He may want to keep his options open so he can pick a contending team. Sheets was Milwaukee's first-round Draft pick in 1999, and has played his entire career for the Brewers, including eight years in the big leagues. He made four All-Star teams, including 2008, when he was tabbed as the starting pitcher for the National League, and helped the Brewers transform from perennial losers to playoff contenders. Sheets was 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA in 2008, but could not pitch in the postseason because of his elbow injury. He fought back some tears after the Brewers were eliminated by the Phillies in the NL Division Series. "Eight years is a long time," Sheets said. "From the team we were to the team we are, I think that's pretty big." Sheets will turn 31 in July. He is a Type A free agent who declined Milwaukee's arbitration offer, but unless he signs with another team before the First-Year Player Draft on June 9-10, the Brewers will not receive the compensatory picks they were expecting.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.