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Sheffield: "No trouble is ahead'

San Diego Padres star Gary Sheffield said his arrest early Wednesday should not be interpreted that he's headed for further trouble.

"People who really care about me wouldn't think like that," Sheffield said Friday night. "That's the way I look at it. Whoever looks at it in a negative way without knowing the facts really doesn't care about me anyway. I don't worry about that."

Sheffield was arrested early Wednesday in Houston and charged with misdemeanor assault following an altercation with police officers at an International House of Pancakes near the Astrodome. Attorney Christopher Tritico said Sheffield will plead not guilty. "We've done our homework and Gary absolutely did nothing wrong," said agent Jim Neader.

The arrest comes at a trying time for Sheffield. The 24-year-old Tampa native and St. Petersburg resident, coming off a breakthrough 1992 season, has struggled on the field and been the subject of rampant trade rumors.

He said the arrest may alter other teams' interest in him, but shouldn't.

"Nobody knows what happened," Sheffield said. "Only I know what happened. If they really knew what happened it wouldn't affect anything."

Sheffield has a checkered professional baseball career. He and his uncle, Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden, were involved in a 1986 run-in with Tampa police. While with Milwaukee, he feuded openly with team officials. He was considered by many as a malcontent until coming to San Diego last season.

He blossomed with the Padres, hitting a league-high .330 with 33 home runs and 100 RBI and finishing third in the MVP balloting.

But this season has been tempered for Sheffield and fellow Tampa product Fred McGriff. Both are facing the possibility of being traded because of budgetary concerns. Sheffield makes $3.11-million under a one-year deal. McGriff will earn $4-million this season and $3.59-million next year under a contract that includes a $4.25-million option for 1995.

Neither enjoys the uncertainty.

"Every day it's in the papers," Sheffield said. "Different guys calling me, saying what this guy said and that guy said. I just want to go out and play baseball.

"If I'm going to be traded, then just go ahead and trade me. I don't want to hear about it."

Sheffield wants to stay in San Diego, but if traded he wants to remain in the National League, with Atlanta, Cincinnati and New York among his top choices.

McGriff, one of the game's top power hitters, has also heard various rumors, specifically of deals to Atlanta or Baltimore. "I'm handling it pretty well because this is not something that's shocking to me," said McGriff, 29. "I said all winter that it could happen."