BY SAM BORDEN
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
DETROIT - Just as the Yankees thought Gary Sheffield was getting healthy, they find out he may be heading right back to the disabled list.
Sheffield was frustrated and despondent last night as he exited Comerica Park, stopping only briefly to talk with the Daily News and one other reporter. Wearing a heavy wrap on his left hand, Sheffield admitted that he has suffered a new injury to his already-ailing wrist and believes he could be facing another long layoff.
"Yeah," Sheffield said when asked directly if he thought he might need to go back on the DL. "As soon as I picked up the bat to warm up (yesterday afternoon), it felt like my wrist came off. ...I don't know what's going on. I felt like (the previous sprain) was getting better, but it's in a different spot now. It's right on the wrist, right on the bone. It's really painful."
Sheffield added that he will see how he feels today but may ask the team to let him return to New York to see hand specialist Dr. Charles Melone, who treated him after he first hurt himself in a collision with Shea Hillenbrand on April 29.
Sheffield said he suffered this latest injury while batting in Monday's win over the Tigers. The slugger said the front part of his wrist is "fine" now but that this latest pain is debilitating.
"I felt it (Monday) hitting in the game," he said. "I thought it was nothing, but as soon as I came back today, I couldn't even swing a bat."
Asked if he might be able to pinch-hit in the next few days, Sheffield shook his head vehemently. "There's no chance of doing any of that," he said.
This latest development is a surprise for the Yankees, who had been hoping that Sheffield was finally improving. On Monday, he played his first game in right field since coming off the disabled list, but was then scratched about an hour before last night's game.
With Hideki Matsui lost until at least September and Johnny Damon playing with a cracked sesamoid bone in his right foot, Sheffield knows that the Yankees need him. That's why he's so irritated with this latest setback.
"I didn't feel comfortable, like I was able to overpower the baseball," Sheffield said. "But I felt like with time, I'd get better. I'm not able to do that. When you're in and out of the lineup, you never can stay consistent."
Damon's situation is not as serious, but the center fielder also sat out last night and said the pain in his foot is "spreading."
Joe Torre said Damon may not play tonight either, though it's possible he could DH. Damon is planning to see a doctor when the Yankees return to New York next week and have more tests done to "make sure the pictures aren't worse."
At this point, the Yankees are hopeful that Damon's injury can be managed. Sheffield's situation, on the other hand, appears to be more problematic.
"I couldn't even make it to batting practice," Sheffield said sullenly. "I'm trying to get back, especially with Matsui down, and do what I'm accustomed to doing. When you're not able to do that, it's frustrating."
"Trying to hit him was like trying to drink coffee with a fork." - Willie Stargell on Sandy Koufax