Sheffield's drive for 500 must wait
In good health, Tigers slugger looks to 2009 with anticipation
CHICAGO -- Gary Sheffield's chase for 500 home runs will have to wait for next year. Still, don't expect him to sweat it. It's just another reason for him to look forward to next season.
After a September surge left the veteran slugger on the brink of joining the 500 home run club, including two homers on Friday to get to 499, Sheffield went homerless over the final three games of the season. He went 0-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch and a strikeout in Monday's season finale against the White Sox.
As nice as it would've been, however, Sheffield didn't sound like a disappointed slugger.
"I would've loved to have done it," Sheffield said after the game, "but I would've liked to do it at home."
His two shots at home included his family watching from one of the ballpark suites. Sheffield's uncle, former Major League pitching great Dwight Gooden, came to watch him on Saturday. Gooden had hoped to make it to Chicago for Monday's game, but he didn't get there.
Thus, the pressure was off for the season finale. It didn't make a difference.
"I was more so pressing [Sunday] than today," Sheffield said. "I was just trying to do whatever it took to win today. That's just the way it goes sometimes."
White Sox starter Gavin Floyd hit Sheffield with a pitch in the opening inning, then fell behind him in the count again in the third before recovering for a called third strike that Sheffield contested with home-plate umpire Mike DiMuro. Sheffield hit into a fielder's choice to end the top of the fifth inning before flying out to center in the seventh.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland batted Sheffield second in the lineup for the second straight game to potentially get the slugger an extra at-bat. The game ended with Sheffield on deck.
Sheffield has talked more than once over the past month about how much he looks forward to next season. Now that he feels healthy, with his right shoulder strong, he'll have a chance to go through his regular offseason routine for the first time in about five years. The home run feat will simply add to list of things to look forward to.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.