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Sheff Returns?

As of yesterday, it wasn't quite clear when Gary Sheffield would end his rehab assignment with Single-A Lakeland and rejoin the Detroit Tigers. Over the weekend, Sheffield only played in one out of three scheduled games. On Friday, he attended a graduation. Saturday's game was rained out. But on Sunday, Sheff was back in the lineup, hitting a home run and going 1-for-3 with two runs scored.

We already knew that Sheffield would be activated when he said he was ready. Sunday's performance was apparently enough for Sheff to declare himself major league ready again. According to the Detroit Free Press, the Tigers could take him off the disabled list today.

So how do the dominoes fall upon Sheff's return? Presumably, Jeff Larish will head back to Toledo, and that's kind of a shame since it looks like his bat was beginning to come around. But he was batting .200/.273/.300. I've been surprised to see so many Tigers fans react negatively to the possibility (or inevitability) of Sheffield getting back into the lineup. Even with diminishing skills, even if he's done, Sheff should be able to match that kind of production.

The worry, of course, is that Sheffield will take away at-bats from Marcus Thames. But I just can't see that happening. I know Jim Leyland has made some baffling lineup decisions in favor of veterans like Neifi Perez and Sean Casey before. And he seems all too willing to acquiesce to Sheffield's every whim. But Thames is swinging such a big bat right now (Jon Paul Morosi listed him as the top reason for the Tigers' resurgence) and has solved Detroit's season-long left field problem. Leyland's not going to mess with a good thing like that. Might he overreact if Thames slumps? Maybe, but let's wait until that happens first.