Notes: Sheffield addresses contract

Notes: Sheffield addresses contract status

JUPITER, Fla. -- Securing a contract extension from the Yankees appears to be weighing on Gary Sheffield's psyche. The veteran right fielder erupted Saturday when asked by a South Florida writer how things are going for him as a Yankee.

"I'm still not comfortable," he said. "I'm not allowed to be comfortable. That's the reality of it. I always have to play with my back against the wall. And it's just one more year of that. It's just always my situation. I've got to be somewhere for one or two years and [then they] reevaluate you and go from there."

Sheffield, 37, said before the Yankees' 8-3 victory over the Florida Marlins that he "absolutely" is always having to prove himself, despite his 449 career home runs and long pedigree as a big-game hitter.

He hit .291 last season, with 34 home runs and 123 RBIs.

Sheffield, in the last year of his contract, was reminded Saturday that he indicated a desire to remain with the Yankees when he reported for Spring Training. He was asked how that blends with his apparent feeling now that his back has been against the wall with New York.

"I'm not getting into that," he said, clearly annoyed.

General manager Brian Cashman, who has talked of the club picking up Sheffield's $13 million option for 2007, said he hadn't heard anything about Sheffield's sentiment and preferred not to comment. Cashman said he would likely broach the subject with Sheffield soon.

Manager Joe Torre initially interpreted it as a good thing that Sheffield felt he had to prove himself every year.

"As you get older, I think you have to do that," Torre said. "And I think that's the reason he's so good. It's a game where you have to prove yourself to yourself every day."

Asked about Sheffield's attitude this spring, Torre noted that his best friends on the team -- Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter -- were away playing in the World Baseball Classic.

"I talk to him a lot, especially since the other guys aren't here," Torre said. "I don't know if that's filling a void, but I try to pay attention. I know last year when I didn't pay attention to him, it was a mistake on my part. Because I didn't sense he needed a rest here and there, and the only way I'm going to get that is to have communications going."

Torre acknowledged that with Sheffield hoping to reach 500 career home runs, his uncle Dwight Gooden's highly-publicized and frequent problems and a desire to get his contract settled, "he has a lot in the hopper. But when the games start, do I think anything will affect how he does his thing? No. To me, that's really the bottom line."

Torre added: "I just hope he feels appreciation from us, because I certainly try to make him feel that way. I'd like to feel we don't just support people just for the baseball part of the game, because this is the game of life here we play, as often as we're together. From February hopefully through October, you're with each other more than you're with your family."

Sheffield has been struggling offensively this spring. His 0-for-3 Saturday left him with an average of .044 (1-for-21) this spring.

That doesn't faze Torre. With proven veteran players like Sheffield, Torre is mainly concerned about one thing in the spring: getting them between 50 and 70 at-bats.

"He's about as good a pressure player as you want to find," Torre said.

Wright likes new curve: Jaret Wright unveiled a new curveball Saturday -- one with a sharper break -- and felt almost giddy about it after limiting the Marlins to three hits and one run in four innings.

"It felt a lot better," Wright said, after striking out four. "It really hasn't been a good pitch for me for awhile. I talked about it with Mike Mussina and he thought this might help."

Instead of a two-seam grip, Wright now uses four seams and holds the ball deeper in his hand.

"I'm still working to feel totally comfortable with it," Wright said. "But it's definitely better than what I was throwing before."

This and that: Second baseman Robinson Cano was hit in the helmet on a throw by Marlins third baseman Miguel Cabrera in the first inning Saturday and removed from the game as a precaution. He felt fine afterward. Cano's line drive hit off pitcher Brian Moehler's glove and bounded to Cabrera, who threw wildly to first. ... Pitcher Scott Erickson was sent back to Tampa early, complaining of back spasms. ... Left fielder Hideki Matsui hit a three-run home run and sacrifice fly in Saturday's victory.

Coming up: Left-hander Randy Johnson will be looking for his first victory of the spring Sunday when the Yankees face the Indians at 1:15 p.m. ET at Legends Field.

Torre is thinking of using Jorge Posada as the Yankees' designated hitter in the game. Posada missed the two-day trip to Jupiter while recovering from a viral outbreak. It's also possible that outfielder Bubba Crosby will participate. Crosby has had a hamstring strain, but Torre said he could have pinch-hit in Saturday's game if needed.

Charlie Nobles is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.