Four weeks after Sheffield was ejected by umpire Greg Gibson for throwing a bat handle after grounding out in a game at Cleveland, Sheffield said he'll agree to a two-game suspension from Major League Baseball. It's less than the three games he originally received, but still too many for someone who believes he shouldn't have been suspended at all.
"I'll do what's best for the team," said Sheffield, who will miss games Saturday and Sunday against the Twins at Comerica Park.
Those remarks came at the end of a long day at the ballpark for the slugger, beginning with a conversation with the MLB Players Association as well as manager Jim Leyland. He spoke by phone before the game with Bob Watson, Major League Baseball's vice president for on-field operations and disciplinarian.
Sheffield's defense was the same as the day after the incident -- that he wasn't throwing the bat handle in home-plate umpire Gibson's direction that night. He had something to say to Gibson on the previous pitch for strike two, at which point he was told to keep quiet. When he hit the ground ball, his bat shattered.
Sheffield says he threw what was left of his bat to the ground towards his dugout. The report filed with the Commissioner's office claimed he threw the bat in Gibson's direction.
The next day, Sheffield was suspended three games, which he immediately appealed. Once Sheffield saw Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca suspended two games for his ejection and throwing items out of the dugout and onto the field on Saturday, that irritated him more.
"Everybody knows I didn't throw the bat at the umpire," he said Thursday morning, before talking with Watson. "Now, it's about reputation. I just saw the Paul Lo Duca incident. And I know Paul Lo Duca. Paul Lo Duca has been in many incidents. He was throwing stuff directly at the umpire, multiple things. He [was suspended] fewer games, and I guarantee you his fine was lower than mine."
At that point, he didn't just want the suspension reduced, but erased. As he talked with Watson about the reduction, challenging him to compare Lo Duca's suspension to his, he still pushed against language that would suggest he intended to throw the bat at Gibson. He knows he has a reputation that comes into play with each incident, and he pushed to make sure this had as little impact on that as possible.
Much as he wanted to fight the changes, however, he wanted to miss as little time from the team as possible. Judging from what he heard from Watson, he figured he'd have to miss some.
"He said exactly what I thought he would say," Sheffield said.
In the end, he decided to do what was best for the club, though Leyland insisted it didn't come at the club's urging.
"In no way, shape or form are we going to tell Gary what to do," Leyland said. "We talked and basically discussed the options, and he said he wanted to do whatever was best for the team."
Leyland told him to handle it however he felt was best, and the club would support his decision. Even in accepting a reduced suspension, the Tigers support Sheffield's side.
"I saw it live, and I saw the tape," Leyland said. "And I will never believe that Gary Sheffield threw the bat at the umpire. Never will I believe that. And I think every coach on this team and every player that saw the incident believes the same way I do.
"Now, I'm not looking for an argument. I'm not trying to cause problems. The umpire had his opinion, which I respect. I don't agree with his opinion."
Miner returns: Zach Miner isn't back on the roster yet, and probably won't be until at least Saturday, but he feels fine following his brief rehab stint at Triple-A Toledo.
The Tigers wanted to see how Miner's arm reacted to throwing back-to-back games. He responded with a perfect inning Tuesday and Wednesday, the latter including a pair of strikeouts. It was actually the first time in Miner's professional career that he remembers throwing on consecutive days.
"I was expecting, not necessarily my tendinitis to flare up, but some sort of soreness," Miner said.
As of Thursday morning, he felt fine. Manager Jim Leyland said he watched the game online and was impressed.
One Tigers reliever who isn't feeling well is lefty Tim Byrdak, whom Leyland said is experiencing some weakness in his forearm. He wasn't available Thursday.
Flight delays: Detroiters aren't the only ones feeling the effects of a rash of flight cancellations at Metro Airport this week. Three members of Thursday's umpiring crew were supposed to fly in from Atlanta on Thursday morning, but their flight was cancelled, forcing them to scramble for a later flight.
The crew eventually joined home-plate umpire Paul Schrieber at Comerica Park, but the start of the game was delayed by 15 minutes as a precaution.
Coming up: Justin Verlander and Johan Santana meet in what could be the biggest pitching matchup at Comerica Park so far this season. The 7:05 p.m. ET matchup Friday night opens the weekend series between the Tigers and Twins.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less