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09/03/09 12:30 AM ET
Sheffield's back keeping him out of action
Manuel confirms that outfielder may not be 'right' this year
By Owen Perkins / Special to MLB.com
DENVER -- The Mets used two pinch-hitters, Jeremy Reed and Anderson Hernandez, in the top of the eighth of a tie ballgame Wednesday night against the Rockies, but elected not to send Gary Sheffield to the plate to swing the bat in hopes of winning a game. Manager Jerry Manuel had said Tuesday that Sheffield was available as a pinch-hitter, but at this stage of the season, the Mets are not willing to risk further aggravating his back, even with the game on the line. "He's got to really be the last guy standing, so we didn't feel like we really had him there," Manuel said after Wednesday's game, confirming that Sheffield was not available. Sheffield left a game on Aug. 26 after suffering back spasms in the seventh inning. He was used as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning on Aug. 28, but has not seen action since. Sheffield is hitting .279 with 43 RBIs in 95 games, and his 10 home runs lead the Mets. Jeff Francoeur has 12, but just seven came as a Met. "It's one of those things where I'm not going to risk taking chances of going out there and risk hurting my back again," Sheffield said, agreeing that he was not really available. "I feel better. I can take batting practice at a high level, but the risk is not worth the reward." It's hard to imagine what reward might be out there at this point in the season for the Mets or Sheffield that would be worth risking injury to his back, and Manuel had expressed doubts Tuesday about whether Sheffield would recover enough to play the field again this season. "He felt his back was still somewhat of an issue for him," Manuel said Tuesday. "I don't know if we'll get a chance to get that right before the end. Possibly, [we] could to the point where we could play him in a position out there." Sheffield did not count himself out for the season, giving assurance that he'll be available again this year. "I'll be fine, it's not a big deal," Sheffield said after Wednesday's loss. "Just not right now."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.