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Sheffield appreciates the heads-up from higher-ups

Knowing right fielder Gary Sheffield would soon be quizzed about his contract status and playing in a "walk" year, general manager Brian Cashman told Sheffield Tuesday it is likely the Yankees will bring him back in 2007.

"It's just a treat to be treated right," said Sheffield, a Hillsborough High graduate.

"I told him that we've built a pretty good relationship throughout this process," Cashman said, "and that I think there's a trust level there with him and I. Let's just play this thing through and see where it goes, but I'd be surprised at the end of this thing if we're not picking the option up."

Sheffield's three-year, $39-million contract included a $13-million option for next year.

Sheffield said the conversation could give him peace of mind, and manager Joe Torre agreed.

"I think it's important to do whatever we can to let players know what's going on," Torre said. "This is so tough to do, playing this game. And if there's something that you're curious about - even if, say, in some cases, that the answer is not what you want to hear - at least you've addressed the issue. I think that's healthy."

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: Infielder Felix Escalona, delayed by visa issues in Venezuela, did not make his physical Tuesday but may arrive in time for the first full-squad workout.

- ED PRICE, Newark Star-Ledger

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