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Sheffield willing to switch to first with Abreu's arrival

NEW YORK -- Gary Sheffield embraced Bobby Abreu's arrival with the New York Yankees, saying he would shift to first base if needed.

"I gave him a hug. I wanted him to feel welcome," Sheffield said Tuesday after Abreu reported to the Yankees, who acquired him in a trade with Philadelphia two days earlier.

Abreu played right field and batted fifth in a 5-1 victory over
Toronto, going 0-for-3 and drawing a nine-pitch walk in the fourth
inning that set up Bernie Williams' tiebreaking, three-run double.

Sheffield, recovering from left wrist surgery in June, hopes to
return in September. Left fielder Hideki Matsui, who broke his left
wrist in May, also hopes to return next month, and the Yankees
could have four outfielders for three spots.

Manager Joe Torre revealed that he and hitting coach Don Mattingly -- a former All-Star first baseman -- have discussed for several months the possibility of shifting Sheffield from right field to first base. Torre said he would have broached the subject with Sheffield in June if he hadn't gone on the disabled list.

"I talked to Sheff Sunday, before he left, and just told him that there's no guarantee that this makes him odd man out just because we got a right fielder," Torre said. "We may just have to find some other thing to do. I didn't specifically say first base the other day, but we did today. He, Donnie and myself talked today. He's already working drills with Donnie."

Torre said Sheffield told him he had already ordered a first baseman's mitt.

"I think he can play that as a regular," Torre said. "I'd be very surprised if he wouldn't be able to handle the defensive part of that game. He's quick. His hands are good."

Sheffield has played the outfield, shortstop and third base in 18-plus major-league seasons. If he shifted to first base, Jason Giambi would see even more time at designated hitter.

"Who is playing first base for us?" Sheffield said playfully. "If he can do it, I can do it."

Abreu, who is 32, is signed for next year at $15 million, and the Yankees hold a $13 million option on the 37-year-old Sheffield, who at times has expressed dissatisfaction with his contract.

Sheffield was jovial when he spoke in the clubhouse and seemed to take delight that reporters appeared to be trying to find out if the trade upset him.

"It's funny how people could think for you and tell you what you're going to do," he said. "You all think you all know what I'm going to do, and you all don't. Nobody knows. That's the mystique of me."

Sheffield admitted he thrives on having something to motivate himself.

"At this point in my career, I need something," he said. "Everybody always [said] I wouldn't hit home runs when I came to Yankee Stadium, and I just kept that in the back of my mind, that I'm going to prove everybody wrong. And I did that. Whatever the next task is, I'll prove it again. That's what I thrive on.

"Trust me, I'll be laughing at the end. Watch me," he said.

New York's acquisitions of Abreu and Craig Wilson just before Monday's non-waiver trade deadline are likely to cut the playing time of Bernie Williams, Andy Phillips and Bubba Crosby. Torre said Wilson will start Wednesday.

Since hitting a record 41 homers in the Home Run Derby before the 2005 All-Star Game, Abreu has just 14 homers in the regular season -- and none in 132 at-bats since June 13 entering Tuesday.

"I've been hitting the ball very hard but for some reason I haven't elevated the ball," he said. "It's all line drives and groundballs."

He also addressed what he said were "all the rumors that talk about that I didn't hustle."

"They don't really realize the way that I play the game. Now, here, I think everyone is going to see the real thing, how I just play the game," he said. "You guys are going to decide whether it's true or not."

Abreu took No. 53 from third-base coach Larry Bowa, his former manager in Philadelphia. Abreu wouldn't say what he gave Bowa, who shifted to No. 50.