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Sheffield expects big year from A-Rod

TAMPA, Fla. -- Gary Sheffield brought his strong opinions
back to Legends Field on Monday, predicting a big year for former
New York Yankees teammate Alex Rodriguez and saying he never thinks
about making the Hall of Fame.

"Alex is going to have the best year he's had since he's been
here," Sheffield said before the Tigers played the Yankees. "I
think what he did, he stood up, that's going to get him over the
top because he expressed how he really felt. He was honest and that
goes a long way. I guarantee when he went home it was a peaceful
night because he really wanted to say these things a long time
ago."

Rodriguez said during the first week of spring training that he
felt a need to conform during his first three seasons in New York.

Sheffield, dealt to the AL champion Tigers during the offseason,
talks regularly with A-Rod.

"Sheff has always been good for me," Rodriguez said. "A good
friend. A good teammate. He's like a big brother to a lot of us.
We're going to miss him."

Sheffield thinks the Yankees and A-Rod will benefit from the
change in demeanor.

"Alex, he's just a passive guy in that area; he doesn't want to
touch on those subjects that can be borderline controversial,"
Sheffield said. "He did it, so I think he's going to benefit from
it. He's got to be his own man. In essence, speaking out I think
was the best thing for him and the organization. The organization
is going to benefit big time."

Sheffield needs 45 homers to reach 500, which would help his
Hall of Fame chances. It's a situation he doesn't think about.

"Not important at all," Sheffield said. "The best wasn't allowed to play this game for a lot of years. So all the best
players ain't in the Hall of Fame. That's what I'm saying. Not all
of them. If it wasn't for that, a lot of them wouldn't be in. I
don't concern myself with it, really at all. I don't think about
it. It's nothing that I shoot for. It's nothing that I care about.
It's as simple as that."

Sheffield is excited to be with Tigers manager Jim Leyland
again. The pair were together when Florida won the 1997 World
Series.

"I'm just trying to do what I did before," Sheffield said,
"going back out and winning the World Series. That's what I'm
looking forward to."

Sheffield has no regrets about his time with the Yankees.

"I had a great experience," he said. "You can't erase the
great years I had. I feel proud of what I did here. I did what I
was supposed to do on the baseball field. That's what they asked me
to do, perform, and that's what I did."

Sheffield felt he had to earn the respect of Yankees manager Joe
Torre, which he eventually did.

"I had to build a relationship," Sheffield said. "Nothing was
given to me. I had to earn everything I got from relationships to
respect in the lineup, to being a go-to guy, being a guy they could
count on. I had to earn all that. Nobody gave me that. I had to
earn the fans. That was part of it. When I look back, that's the
thing that stands out the most."

He is hopeful that fans at Yankee Stadium will be supportive
when the Tigers visit Aug. 16-19.

"I love them," Sheffield said. "I know a lot of New Yorkers
love me. Hopefully that never changes."