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 was immediately inserted into the starting lineup, playing right field and batting fifth against Toronto. 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.
"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."