Manager Leyland 'flabbergasted' by Sheffield's comments

Updated: August 11, 2008, 10:08 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

DETROIT -- Gary Sheffield and Jim Leyland might just have to agree to disagree.

Sheffield said he wants to play every day and the nine-time All-Star feels he's in a platoon for the Detroit Tigers. He also said he doesn't think he should be solely a designated hitter.

"I can be in the outfield and play every day. I don't want to DH," Sheffield told the Boston Globe. "I don't feel like a baseball player when I DH. I don't know how to be the leader that I am from the bench. I can't be a vocal leader. I can't talk to guys from the bench because I don't feel right about it.

[+] EnlargeGary Sheffield
G Fiume/Getty ImagesGary Sheffield thinks that he can play in the outfield every day, but Tigers management disagrees.

"I'm in a role now where I don't know what to do, really. The guys are out there busting their butt for nine innings, they come in and they hit and they grind. I just sit down and hit. That's all I do, so I can't be in a leadership role from that position."

Leyland said he's "flabbergasted" by Sheffield's comments, which were published in a Boston Globe story and repeated Monday, because shoulder injuries have limited his playing time and accepting his role as a DH was a condition of being acquired.

Shortly after losing to St. Louis in the 2006 World Series, Detroit traded prospects to the New York Yankees for the slugger and gave him a $28 million contract extension through 2009.

"I told him that all I had here for him was a DH. If he did not want to accept that, do not accept the trade," Leyland recalled. "I'm still confused by the article because it talks about 'platoon doesn't set well.' Gary Sheffield never platooned here.

"Platoon is when you have a left-hand hitter and a right-hand hitter. One plays against right-hand pitching and one plays against left-hand pitching. That is a platoon."

Leyland said Sheffield played in 39 of 51 games before going on the disabled list in May and played in 36 of the last 43 games, entering Monday's series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.

"Anybody that has a brain knows that's not a platoon," Leyland said.

Sheffield stuck with his take on the situation after hearing Leyland's side of the story.

"I come in some days and I don't play and some days I play. That's platooning to me," Sheffield said. "You might think it's different. It's not a big deal, but that's the way I feel."

I tried to play him in the outfield. It didn't work. He couldn't throw in from the outfield.

-- Jim Leyland

Sheffield was booed before his first at-bat against Toronto and heard more jeers after striking out looking.

He began the game hitting .222 with 10 homers and 33 RBIs in 75 games.

The 39-year-old Sheffield is a career .293 hitter with 490 home runs and 1,609 RBIs, ranking among the top 30 run-producers in baseball history.

Leyland put Sheffield in left field three months ago when Jacque Jones was cut.

"I never accepted that I was just a pure DH," Sheffield said when the move was made in May. "A DH is a guy that couldn't do anything else. And, I'm not that."

Sheffield played left field for six games between May 5-16 with poor results because his right shoulder was not 100 percent after having offseason surgery.

"I tried to play him in the outfield. It didn't work," Leyland said. "He couldn't throw in from the outfield."

Both Leyland and Sheffield insisted they weren't upset about the situation.

General manager Dave Dombrowski shrugged his shoulders when asked about Sheffield being unhappy about being a DH.

"If he's found out he doesn't like it, well, that's the only role we have for him at this time," Dombrowski said. "He has not shown from a health perspective that he's been able to play every day in the outfield. He just has to perform the task that's asked of him."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.