With few aches, Sheffield 'encouraged'

With few aches, Sheffield 'encouraged'

NEW YORK -- More encouraging than his solo home run was how Gary Sheffield felt afterward. Isolated hits only mean so much in eight-run blowouts. Sheffield's health means more.

Sheffield felt so good, in fact, that he embraced manager Jerry Manuel's intention to put him back in the Mets' starting lineup on Saturday. Lounging next to his locker after Friday's 9-1 loss to the Yankees, Sheffield said that he even felt as strong as he looked.

"I didn't ice tonight," Sheffield said. "I felt that good."

Entering the game, there was a bit of concern surrounding Sheffield, who hadn't played since last Sunday and received a cortisone shot in his right knee on Tuesday. Given that Sheffield's primary asset is his power, a knee injury seemed troublesome.

But there was Sheffield on Friday evening, ignoring CC Sabathia's perfect first four innings by blasting a cutter into the left-field seats to lead off the fifth. It was Sheffield's team-leading ninth home run -- not bad for a guy whom the Tigers didn't want during Spring Training. And it was the Mets' only hit to that point, which was understandable considering Sabathia allowed only two others all night.

The hit was remarkable mainly because it produced the Mets' only run in a game that they quickly began the process of forgetting.

"It was actually a good pitch," Sheffield said. "I was just being aggressive."

Aggression is becoming a Subway Series trademark for Sheffield, who is now hitting .438 with a double and three home runs in four games against the Yankees this season. Though the Mets have lost three of those games, Sheffield is hardly to blame -- even if he actively ignores that fact.

"Obviously, it's a big game for the city," Sheffield said. "The nation watches these games."

The nation may have been interested in his home run, but for Sheffield, tackling Citi Field's quirky right field was the greater challenge. Sheffield chased after several balls in the later innings, bounding into the corner and eventually jogging off the field unscathed.

As Sheffield said, he did not ice, and so he hardly feared whatever creaking and groaning sounds his 40-year-old body might make on Saturday morning. All he knows is that when Manuel arrives at Citi Field on Saturday and pencils Sheffield's name into the lineup, he will be eager to accept.

"I felt good," Sheffield said in the past tense, which bodes well for the present. "I was encouraged with myself."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.