Sheffield played in the 1980 Little League World Series for Belmont Heights Little League of Tampa, Fla., eventually becoming one of 31 players to graduate from the Little League World Series to the Major Leagues. He said the experience of meeting Stargell that year was unforgettable.
"He talked about the game of baseball, he talked about life, he talked about growing into a young man," Sheffield recalled. "And the other thing I'll never forget, which is something my grandfather also impressed on me, was that he talked about being intelligent and using your brain. He said, 'You want to be a thinking man when you play this game.'
"I took those things to heart. That's why I'm always trying to think ahead and know what's happening out there before it happens."
With his five-RBI game Wednesday, Sheffield passed Yankees great Joe DiMaggio (1,537) and tied Tigers Hall of Famer Harry Heilmann. Sheffield said he knows the importance of each player he passes, but Stargell's name is one with special resonance for him.
"Every team I'm on, I try to learn the history of the organization, to give those guys their proper respect," he said. "The ones that I do know well, like Stargell, that's when it really means something to me."
Wednesday's two home runs increased Sheffield's career total to 470, good for 29th on the all-time list. Next up, tied for 27th with 475 career home runs, are Stan Musial and Stargell. Sheffield admitted he hasn't really taken the time yet to absorb the enormity of such numbers or ponder his own Hall of Fame potential.
"It's an honor to be in all their company, but there's still more work to be done," said Sheffield, 38. "I haven't really had a chance to think about it, because there's so many more things to accomplish."
Right-handed relievers Aquilino Lopez and Yorman Bazardo were in the Tigers' bullpen Thursday. The two were recalled from Triple-A Toledo late Wednesday after left-hander Nate Robertson (arm fatigue) and right-hander Zack Miner (elbow tendinitis) were placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Miner said his elbow has bothered him since his May 30 appearance in Tampa Bay. Team trainers suspected tendinitis, and that diagnosis was confirmed on Tuesday in an examination from the Rangers' team physician Dr. Keith Meister. Miner was told an MRI exam was not necessary, based on the description and location of his symptoms.
"The worst-case scenario always pops in your mind," Miner said, "but they assured me that if it was [a damaged ligament or tendon] my velocity wouldn't have been good and the pain wouldn't have gotten better like it has with rest."
Miner is taking anti-inflammatory medication and will not throw for at least five more days. Robertson also has been ordered not to throw for at least five days and then will work his way back toward making at least one minor-league rehab start.
Rookie Andrew Miller will be recalled to take Robertson's next scheduled start Sunday against the Mets.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland, 62, has previously suggested he might only want to manage another five years or so. He was asked whether that meant he'll ever get a chance to manage Rick Porcello, the highly regarded high school pitcher taken by Detroit in the first round of Thursday's First-Year Player Draft.
"If he's as good as they say he is, he might be pitching here in September," Leyland joked. "And I hope I'm here that long."
Bullpen next for Gambler: Leyland said there was talk that left-hander Kenny Rogers might make a rehab start for Triple-A Toledo this weekend, but the veteran pitcher said that isn't the case just yet. Rogers said he will throw a bullpen session on Friday in Detroit, then assess whether he is ready for a competitive test with the Mud Hens.
He said it: "I used to hit about 10 [home runs] a year the opposite way. That's when I knew I could hit 40 or 50. When I start pulling all the time, I'd lose about 10 to 15 homers a year. So, that's a great sign." --Sheffield, on the potential import of Wednesday's rare opposite-field home run off Rangers right-hander Kevin Millwood
Briefly: Catcher Vance Wilson's rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo will expand from DH to catching duties this weekend. Leyland said he expects GM Dave Dombrowski to make a decision on activating Wilson early next week, but said the Tigers have no plans to carry three catchers on their roster. Mike Rabelo has been backing up starting catcher Ivan Rodriguez while Wilson recovers from elbow soreness. ... Toledo 3B Mike Hessman and Class A West Michigan LHP Duane Below were named the Tigers' Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month for May, respectively. Hessman hit .277 with eight homers and 34 RBI in 29 games, while Below went 4-1 with a 2.75 ERA in six starts. ... Magglio Ordonez's 29 doubles entering Thursday were the most in the Majors and the most by a player through 58 games since Kansas City's Mike Sweeney also had 29 doubles through 58 games in 2001. Sweeney finished that season with 46 doubles, still his career high. Ordonez had a career-best 47 doubles for the White Sox in 2002.
Up next: Tigers RHP Chad Durbin (5-1, 4.75) is scheduled to oppose Mets RHP Jorge Sosa (5-1, 3.22) in the opener of a three-game Interleague series against New York. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET at Comerica Park.