Cashman appreciates the gesture

NEW YORK -- Who's going to play third base for the Yankees?

We know it won't be Aaron Boone, who injured his knee playing basketball and may be lost for the season. It won't be Todd Zeile, who had no interest this offseason in going back to the Bronx and signed with the Mets.

Gary Sheffield? His offer to play the position flattered the Yankees, but general manager Brian Cashman said Wednesday that Sheffield isn't an option.

"It's awesome that he stepped up, but it's not being considered at this time," Cashman told Newsday. "I think it's great that he'd do that. It's a great gesture. He sees the team has a need and he volunteers to plug it. A terrific message."

Sheffield, an All-Star outfielder who signed with the Yankees this offseason, played third base previously during the early years of his major league career. He started out with the Brewers in 1988 as a shortstop before making the transition to third full time for Milwaukee in 1990. Overall, Sheffield has totaled 466 games at third base -- but none since 1993 -- for the Brewers, Marlins and San Diego Padres.

Perhaps his most memorable -- forgettable? -- game as an infielder while a Brewer came near the end of his 1988-91 tenure. Desperate to be traded because of his revulsion for the team and city, Sheffield deliberately threw a ball into the stands during a game. In 1992, he was traded to the Padres.

A different possibility for the Yankees? Tyler Houston.

Houston's deal was agreed to last week, after the Yankees learned about Boone's injury.

Houston, 33, hit .278 with two homers and 14 RBI last year with
Philadelphia. He would get a $900,000, one-year contract if he is
added to New York's roster. If he isn't added to the roster by
April 1 and asks to be released, New York must grant his request.

The Yankees also have Drew Henson, Enrique Wilson, Miguel Cairo and Erick Almonte as third-base possibilities, and they could try to trade for a veteran such as Adrian Beltre of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Henson, the former Michigan quarterback, has struggled in the minor leagues since signing a $17 million, six-year contract with the Yankees in 2001.

As for Zeile, the infielder finalized his $1 million, one-year contract with the New York Mets on Wednesday. He said he wouldn't have spoken to the Yankees even if he had known an opening would develop at third base.

"I have no desire to play again for that organization," Zeile said during a telephone conference call Wednesday.

After signing with the Yankees, his 11th major league team, Zeile hit .210 with six homers and 23 RBI in 186 at-bats. New York released him on Aug. 17, and Zeile signed with Montreal three days
later, going on to bat .257 with five homers and 19 RBI in 113 at-bats.

"I think some of the things that happen over there are different than any other organization in baseball. I have a pretty good track record to judge that," Zeile said, citing his numerous stops across the majors.

"Every day is potentially the end-all," he said. "It's whatever they need that day. It sometimes can be unsettling for people in role positions there. ... I don't really have a desire to get back into that mix."

At times last year, Zeile thought 2003 would be his final season.

"Only because I got some renewed desire and some adrenaline and passion for the game with Montreal did I really consider coming back for another year," he said. "The move to Montreal really solidified for me the desire to continue to play. It gave me the opportunity to check out if I had anything left in the tank."

Zeile, 38, was the Mets' starting first baseman in 2000 and 2001. He has a career batting average of .266 in 15 seasons with 244 homers and 1,075 RBI, and on Sept. 5 last year, he became the first player to homer for 11 major league teams, connecting off Florida's Mark Redman.

In addition to his salary, Zeile can earn $500,000 in bonuses based on plate appearances.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.