The impetus for the move, according to Torre, had more to do with Williams' stellar numbers against Tigers starter Kenny Rogers than Sheffield's performance over the first two games.
Williams is 12-for-34 (.353) with two home runs lifetime against Rogers, while Sheffield is 3-for-17 (.176) against the southpaw. Williams was inserted into the lineup as the designated hitter, shifting Jason Giambi (10-for-23, .435 vs. Rogers) to first base, where he hasn't played since Sept. 19 because of a left wrist injury.
"The biggest thing I had to find out, I had to wait for Jason, to make sure he could play first base with his hand," said Torre, who announced the lineup change roughly two hours before the game. "When I did see Jason and asked him, he said he was fine. I said, 'Did you bring your first baseman's mitt?'"
Giambi said he anticipated no problems playing first base, where Sheffield started each of the first two games of the series.
Torre originally wrote down the same lineup he used in each of the first two games, but after checking with Giambi about playing first base, he opted to start Williams and sit Sheffield.
Sheffield said he was disappointed to be out of the lineup, but he deferred to Torre's decision, saying, "He's the manager."
"Yeah, I would like to be in there," Sheffield said. "I'm just going to enjoy the game like everybody else."
"Sheff obviously wants to play," Torre said. "He's a competitor. Who knows, before the night's over with, he may be there. But I just explained to him why I was making the change. It was based on Bernie's numbers. They were the main reason."
Williams, who hadn't played in either of the first two games, seemed happy to be in the lineup, if not a bit surprised.
"With this lineup," Williams said, "it's a miracle I get to break in."
Cleaning up: Inserting Williams for Sheffield wasn't the only lineup change Torre made, as Alex Rodriguez was moved from the No. 6 hole into the cleanup spot in the new lineup.
Torre batted Rodriguez sixth in the first two games, and he planned to do so again on Friday. But once Sheffield was sent to the bench, the cleanup spot opened up, and Torre put A-Rod there despite going 1-for-8 in the first two games, including an 0-for-4, three-strikeout game on Thursday.
"Alex will hit fourth, to make everybody happy," Torre joked after announcing the lineup change.
Rodriguez's 1-for-8 in the first two games makes him 4-for-35 with no RBIs in his last 10 postseason games, but Torre doesn't see the third baseman pressing like he did in August on the West Coast during his last major slump.
"I think he's up there knowing what he wants to do," Torre said. "When he was in the middle of his slumps, there was a lot of indecisiveness. I don't see that now. He seems pretty comfortable."
Torre made a pair of comparisons with regard to A-Rod, first to John Elway, who went most of his career with the label of coming up small in the big game. Then Torre compared Rodriguez to Tino Martinez, who did not drive in a run in the entire 1996 postseason, and was considered a poor postseason player -- until he hit a huge grand slam in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series against the Padres.
"All of a sudden, all that other [stuff] was forgotten," Torre said of Martinez. "He took the same kind of beating in the media at the time. Once you get that hit, you've always been great."
Torre was hoping that Rodriguez's big hit would come in the first inning of Game 2. Instead, he struck out with the bases loaded.
"You want it to be," the manager said. "The way he's been, personality-wise, over the last week or so, I've been comfortable with it. He's like 180 degrees from what he was when we were on the Coast, wondering what was going on."
Sore in center: Johnny Damon's left knee was still sore after he fouled a ball off his leg in the ninth inning of Thursday's Game 2.
Damon received treatment on Thursday night, keeping it in a compression wrap overnight. He got more treatment on Friday at the ballpark, but declared himself ready to go for Game 3.
"It's still stiff, but I have to go out there and play," Damon said. "It does bother me running. I'm definitely not as fast. We'll try to get through what we can, and if we need [someone else] later on to track some balls down, we'll do something."
If Torre decides to pull Damon for defense in the late innings, Melky Cabrera likely would replace him in center field.
Home alone: Chien-Ming Wang did not accompany the Yankees to Detroit, as the club left him in New York to prepare for a potential Game 5 on Sunday night.
Torre ruled out the possibility of using Wang on short rest on Saturday if the Yankees are facing elimination, as Jaret Wright will take the ball.
"He's in New York, so unless they switch the venue, I don't think it's going to work," Torre said. "He's not an option."
Minor moves: General manager Brian Cashman confirmed a New York Post report that Bill Masse, who managed Double-A Trenton last season and has managed in the Yankees' Minor League system for the past six years, will not return for the 2007 season.
Masse criticized the organization in the newspaper report, but Cashman wouldn't give any details regarding his decision not to retain Masse.
"Obviously, it's Cash's call," Masse told the paper. "I talked to Cash and I am floored and shocked. According to Cash, I put winning ahead of development."
"It's not in anybody's best interest to go through why I did what I did with Bill Masse," Cashman said. "He knows the reasons why he's not coming back."
Cashman said that Triple-A manager Dave Miley would return next season, and the organization wants Luis Sojo to come back as the manager of Class A Tampa. The rest of the organizational decisions will be made in the coming weeks and months.
"Every year, you have to make decisions, try to improve yourself. There are tough decisions to make, so we'll make tough decisions," Cashman said. "There will be some new people, and others that continue on for us. We'll have the best people on the field, in the dugout, in the front office. It's what every organization strives to do. We hope when the dust settles, it's for the better."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.