NEW YORK (AP) – Gary Sheffield plans to go for No. 500 with the New York Mets.

One home run shy of the milestone, Sheffield reached a contract agreement with New York on Friday, three days after he was released by the Detroit Tigers in a surprising move.

Set to open their beaming new ballpark Friday night with an exhibition game against Boston, the Mets made another splash by acquiring Sheffield. He is expected to be in New York on Saturday and the deal is contingent on him passing a physical, general manager Omar Minaya said.

“Gary gives us another element in the lineup and he gives us a different intensity, just because of the competitive guy that he is,” Minaya said.

The 40-year-old slugger provides the Mets with a right-handed power bat, something they needed to help balance the batting order. But his role on the team will be tricky: New York was already set at the corner outfield spots with Ryan Church in right and Daniel Murphy in left – both left-handed hitters.

Sheffield is likely to see at least part-time duty in right field, starting against left-handed pitchers.

Minaya said manager Jerry Manuel had spoken to Sheffield and explained exactly what sort of role he envisioned for the nine-time All-Star.

Sheffield is one big swing from becoming the 25th player to reach 500 home runs. The Tigers will have to pay $13.6 million of his $14 million contract this year while the Mets get him for the major league minimum of $400,000.

Minaya said Sheffield has always wanted to play for the Mets ever since his uncle, Dwight Gooden, was a star pitcher for them in the 1980s and 90s. Sheffield played across town with the Yankees from 2004-06, putting up two big seasons followed by an injury-shortened one before he was traded to the Tigers.

Often outspoken, Sheffield was Detroit’s designated hitter before he was released. Shoulder injuries and other problems limited him to 114 games and a .225 average with 19 homers and 57 RBIs last season. He hit .178 with five homers in 45 spring training at-bats this year.

When the Tigers released him, they said it was because they wanted to be a more versatile team. Now back in the National League, Sheffield will have to readjust to playing the field. How well he can do that remains to be seen.

“It’s good. I hope he comes in with a good attitude,” Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado said. “I’m sure he wants to prove to people that he can play.”

Philadelphia, the Mets’ biggest rival in the NL East, expressed interest in Sheffield soon after he was cut. The Phillies also could use a right-handed bat to balance their lineup.

“He’ll be a great asset. He plays hard every day,” Delgado said.

The addition of Sheffield could mean Marlon Anderson’s days with the Mets are numbered. A pinch-hitting specialist, he batted .210 with a homer and 10 RBIs last year.

Sheffield has also played for Milwaukee, San Diego, Florida, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta. He is a .292 lifetime hitter and ranks 27th on the career list with 1,633 RBIs.

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