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Right fielder says he aggravated injury

TAMPA, Fla. -- Gary Sheffield is waiting for doctors to give
him a thumb's up -- or a thumb's down.

Yankees right fielder Sheffield is out indefinitely because of a jammed right thumb.

Sheffield got hurt in a spring training game Saturday against
Toronto. At first, the Yankees thought it was only a bruise. But
after an MRI exam Sunday, the team decided Monday to send him for X-rays and then to a hand expert in New York.

"Now, I'm officially worried about it," general manager Brian Cashman said.

Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser, a hand expert who treated Derek Jeter's thumb injury last October, was to review the results of the MRI and the X-rays and examine Sheffield himself on Tuesday, the New York Daily News reports.

Last year, Jeter tore a ligament in his left
thumb during the AL championship series opener against Boston. He
kept on playing, taking numbing medication for the remainder of the
Red Sox series, and the thumb healed on its own.

"Some guys say operate, other guys say rehabilitate. I stayed
with the rehabilitate guy," Jeter said.

Cashman said the worst-case scenario would be that Sheffield
needs surgery, meaning he would be out two to three months.

Cashman said that estimate, which includes the surgery, is based on the initial doctors' reports and what other players with similar injuries had missed, according to the Daily News.

There
are no signs of a break, Cashman said, but he would not say whether
there was ligament damage.

The best-case scenario, Cashman said, would be that the right
fielder could return for spring training games.

The Yankees open the season with two games against Tampa Bay in
Tokyo on March 30-31.

"These things are tricky, so we want to make sure that we have
a specialist give us an opinion of what exactly is going on with
that thumb," Cashman said. "It could be an old injury, or it
could be a new one. We'll find out."

Sheffield left the Atlanta Braves in the offseason to sign a $39
million, three-year contract with the Yankees. He was among players
who testified before a federal grand jury that indicted Barry
Bonds' personal trainer for illegal distribution of steroids.
Sheffield has denied using steroids.

He was hurt trying to get to a fly ball by Orlando Hudson that
landed for a triple. Sheffield downplayed the injury, describing it
as "nothing major."

"I could play right now if I had to," he said. "It's just a
little sore. I've got all my range and motion and (I'm) doing
everything with it. They don't want me to take a chance."

Asked whether he were worried, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner
responded: "Sure I am." But he also added: "I'm sure he's going
to be OK."

Joe Torre, the Yankees manager, also believed Sheffield would be fine.

Torre told the Daily News, "If I can go on Gary, on how he felt, I'm optimistic. He said it didn't feel that bad. We'll see. I know how much pain Jeter was in last year and Gary doesn't seem to be in that kind of pain."

But, he said, "If he's going to miss a period of time, this would be the time for it to happen."

New York already is without center fielder Bernie Williams, who
had an appendectomy and will probably miss the season-opening
series in Tokyo. Kenny Lofton, Travis Lee, Tony Clark, Bubba Crosby and Darren Bragg are
among the candidates who could fill the outfield spots.

Hideki Matsui could move from left to right if Sheffield's
injury is serious. Lofton has only seen time in center, not the
corner outfield spots.

Sheffield said he aggravated an injury from last season, when he
was hurt July 10 during a headfirst slide in Chicago.

"I stole a base, third base, and I kind of jarred it a little
bit," he said. "From that day on my thumb was sore. I've been
treating it since that time, and it's just starting to get better,
and I banged it up again. It just feels like somebody jammed you
with a pitch. The next time you go out in the outfield and come
back, it hurts like that. Nothing more. The swelling has gone down
a lot."

Cashman said the Yankees were not aware of the hand injury when
they agreed to the deal with Sheffield, who passed a physical.

"There is not an issue here for me on a pre-existing injury,"
Cashman said.

Notes
LHP Danny Borrell was optioned to Triple-A Columbus, and
RHP Chien-Ming Wang was optioned to Double-A Trenton. ... New York lost to a Minnesota split squad 13-2 as
Alex Rodriguezwent 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, including one with
the bases loaded and two outs.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.