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Sheffield game's newest bad boy?

It's bad enough being lumped with Albert Belle and Dennis Rodman. But when those two are drawing favorable comparisons to you, well, that's when your image has officially reached bottom.

And that is where Gary Sheffield is, according to one national baseball writer in Denver who called Sheffield "the new player everybody loves to hate."

Writer Tony DeMarco tore into Sheffield in Sunday's edition of the Denver Post, pointing to the Marlins rightfielder as the personification of what is turning away baseball fans.

In a column under the headline "He makes Rodman appear the gentleman," DeMarco wrote: "The selfish, spoiled, me-first, overpaid and ungrateful ballplayer? Sheffield does that far better than anything he tries on the field.

"Nothing written here or anywhere else could be more incriminating than what comes out of his mouth on a regular basis.

"Now that Albert Belle has succeeded in driving away the media with a subpar 1997, a .200 batting average this season and an always-brooding persona, Sheffield is the game's new player everybody loves to hate."

Added DeMarco: "He was run out of Milwaukee as an under-acheiver/bad apple, had one great year in San Diego, and one more in the last five years in Florida _ yet he would have you think he's the next Willie Mays."

By the way, Sheffield played 57 games at shortstop for the Triple-A Denver Bears in 1988, batting .344 with nine home runs and 54 RBI before he was called to the majors that summer by the Brewers at 19.

BRAVES: Greg Maddux threw 94 pitches, which prompted this observation from manager Bobby Cox: "He didn't have his stuff today. He threw as many pitches in five innings as he normally would in nine innings."

BREWERS: The bullpen pitched 15 scoreless innings against the Giants during the team's first five games before giving up three runs.

CARDINALS: Mark McGwire lost another battle of power versus power, striking out three times against Curt Schilling. McGwire typically struggles against hard-throwing right-handers. In 47 career at-bats against Roger Clemens, McGwire hit .085 (4-for-47) with 14 strikeouts.

CUBS: Chicago has gone 233 games without hitting a grand slam. Chicago was the only team in the majors that didn't hit one last season.

DODGERS: The bullpen shut out the Cubs on one hit in 11 innings during the three-game series. . . . C Mike Piazza needs one homer to tie Ron Cey's club record of nine in April (1977).

MARINERS: When Twins RHP and Tampa native Brad Radke shut out the Mariners, it marked just the sixth game Seattle did not hit a home run.

ORIOLES: Baltimore placed RHP Scott Kamieniecki on the 15-day DL and recalled RHP Nerio Rodriguez from Triple-A Rochester. . . . Ace Mike Mussina threw from a bullpen mound for about 10 minutes and reported no further irritation of the right index finger that landed him on the DL April 17.

PADRES: The bullpen held the Pirates scoreless for 13 innings in a 4-3, 16-inning win Saturday night. Three days earlier, the relievers pitched seven scoreless innings in a 3-2, 14-inning win over the Cubs.

RED SOX: Bret Saberhagen, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, threw six innings against the Indians on Saturday, continuing to show flashes of his old dominance. He has a 1.96 ERA, a fastball in the low 90s and the pluck and fluidity that some feared he would never recapture. "I can only imagine what his stuff used to be," Cleveland's Jim Thome said. P Pedro Martinez is taking pills that are anti-ulcer agents.

ROYALS: Shane Mack singled, extending his hitting streak to 15, the majors' longest current streak.

WHITE SOX: Albert Belle hit his third home run and extended his hitting streak to eight.

_ TIMES WIRES

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