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Deal is richest in club history

MILWAUKEE -- All-Star pitcher Ben Sheets signed a $38.5
million, four-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday,
the richest deal in team history.

Sheets signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the club in
February to avoid salary arbitration, but left open the option of a
longer pact. The Brewers haven't had a winning season since 1992,
and Sheets said he put off the opportunity to become a free agent
because he wants to be part of the team's resurgence.

"You can go somewheres else and maybe win a title or whatever,
win a division," Sheets said, "but is it as special as helping
build one? Probably not. I can't imagine it would even be close."

Sheets had back surgery in the offseason, and general manager
Doug Melvin wanted to see for himself how the right-hander
performed in spring training before opening talks on a bigger deal.

"It is a real happy day in Milwaukee Brewers history to be able
to sign Ben Sheets to a four-year contract through the 2008
season," Melvin said. "It's just very difficult to go out and
find pitchers and people that have the character of Ben and the
ability of Ben Sheets."

Melvin hopes Sheets' new deal shows the organization is
committed to winning.

"We have always battled on the field," he said, "and now I
hope that clubs recognize that we are going to battle in the front
office, too."

Sheets was 12-14 with a 2.70 ERA last season, and his 264
strikeouts were the most among NL right-handers.

The 26-year-old Sheets, who has a 46-55 career record in the
major leagues with a 3.91 ERA and 703 strikeouts, took the loss
against St. Louis on Friday night after giving up three runs and
five hits in 7 1/3 innings of the Cardinals 3-0 win. He was an
All-Star in 2001 and again last year.

He said it was a special day for him and his family.

"I'm glad to be here. Can you believe these crazy people?" he
said. "They want me here for another couple of years. Wow!"

The Brewers' new owner, Mark Attanasio, has increased player
payroll from a league-low $27.5 million last year to more than $40
million.

"The entire organization -- ownership, management, coaches and
players -- is excited about the prospect of building a winning team
around Ben, and we know he shares that excitement," Attanasio said
in a statement.

Until Friday, the biggest Brewers deal was a $23 million,
three-year contract extension Geoff Jenkins signed last year, the
team said.

"It makes you feel kind of special that they think you are part
of the solution here," Sheets said.