The Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. - Gary Sheffield got a thumb's-up from a hand specialist Tuesday and will return to spring training instead of having surgery to repair a torn ligament.
The right fielder, who reinjured his thumb last weekend, will return to playing later this week.
"Gary Sheffield is one tough cookie, an exceptional athlete and a leader with tremendous determination to win," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said. "He will be a big factor for the Yankees, and I applaud his courage."
Sheffield originally hurt his right thumb July 10 while sliding headfirst into third base for the Atlanta Braves. The torn ligament went undetected, and he hit .327 after the injury with 17 homers and 62 RBI in 69 games.
"He swung the bat with supersonic speed last year," Braves general manager John Schuerholz said. "If that's what happens with somebody who has a hurt thumb, we're going to see to it that all our players go through that."
Sheffield, who signed a $39 million, three-year contract with the Yankees as a free agent, aggravated the injury Saturday while trying to get to a fly ball. The Yankees initially thought it was just a bruise, but the team began to worry after tests revealed the tear.
"We're not out of the woods on this, don't get me wrong," general manager Brian Cashman said. "But today's news was certainly more encouraging."
An operation to repair a torn thumb ligament typically requires two to three months of recovery time.
"Based on the hand specialist's evaluation today, all the information provided - MRI, X-rays, Gary's history, an onsite evaluation of his hand - the recommendation right now was that surgery wasn't actually necessary, but it still remains an option," Cashman said.
"If we feel it's not working, if Gary feels it isn't working, then, obviously, he'll have to have the surgery."
But, Cashman added, "Most likely, he'll be fine."
Schuerholz and Braves manager Bobby Cox said Sheffield never complained about the injury or gave the team cause to think it was serious.
"He's like an old-timer - rub some dirt on it and go," Schuerholz said.
Sheffield is a seven-time All-Star who also has played for Milwaukee, San Diego, Florida and Los Angeles. Overall last season, he hit .330 with 39 homers and 132 RBI, finishing third behind Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols in voting for the National League MVP award.
Sheffield was among players who testified during the offseason before a federal grand jury that indicted Barry Bonds' personal trainer for illegal distribution of steroids.
Sheffield has denied using steroids.
C-USA TOURNAMENT PREVIEW
Conference USA teams see prominence arrive too late
Leader a quiet force for UC
Fan's guide to the C-USA tournament
C-USA Tournament tidbits
C-USA Tournament trivia
A-10 TOURNAMENT PREVIEW
Pressure-cooker success may determine NCAA bids
Muskies' A-10 goal: Boost NCAA odds
Fan's guide to the A-10 Tournament
A-10 Tournament tidbits
A-10 Tournament trivia
MORE COLLEGE BASKETBALL
C-USA gives Bobbitt its sixth-man award
UK begins planting NCAA No. 1 seed
NCAA Tournament invitation takes NKU players by surprise
Player who broke color barrier dies
Tournament scores & schedules
Reds outdo Boston aces
Inside Reds camp
Reese happy he's finally in Boston
Sheffield avoids surgery on injured thumb
Gutierrez eager to prove his worth
MND (25-0) wins again
Vikings roll to regional final
Badin wins regional semifinal in rubber match
Corbett comes through in closing seconds for Dixie Heights
Prep sports schedules
Is Dillon destined for Oakland?
Bengals e-mail Q&A
Browns add QB Garcia, soon may subtract Couch
No surprise: Hill done for year
Pacers earn OT win by controlling Carter late
MORE SPORTS HEADLINES
Sports today on TV, radio
THIS WEEK'S SPORTS POLL
Was Marvin Lewis right to name Carson Palmer as the starting quarterback?
Return to Reds front page...