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Notes: Sheffield eyes second ring
10/04/2004 7:27 PM ET
NEW YORK -- Gary Sheffield has been to the postseason before. Now he gets to do it on baseball's biggest stage.

Sheffield, who is closing out the first year of his three-year, $39 million contract with the Yankees, is looking to collect a second World Series ring to go along with the one he won with the Marlins in 1997. To do that, he must help the Yankees get past the Twins in the Division Series, which begins on Tuesday in the Bronx.

"This is the part that we all come here for -- the postseason play," Sheffield said. "For me, this is what I anticipated. As tough as it is to go through a regular season, when this time comes, you know it's worth your while."

Sheffield will suit up for the postseason with the same shoulder injury that has bothered him since June, but he's not letting it slow him down. Sheffield hit .290 with 36 home runs and 121 RBIs this season, establishing himself as a serious AL MVP candidate.

He took a pair of cortisone shots in his shoulder two weeks ago, but he says that the effects of the injections have worn off for the most part. Two days off over the weekend helped him freshen up for the postseason, as he looks to improve upon his career .238 playoff batting average.

"It helped me for a couple of days, but I never thought it was going to fix the problem," Sheffield said of the shots. "I just wanted to alleviate some pain, and it did that."

Sheffield has played in three postseasons in his career, winning the World Series in '97 and losing in the first round in each of the past two seasons with Atlanta. But Tuesday, he'll hear Bob Sheppard announce his name in October, and he thinks that a playoff game at Yankee Stadium will be something special.

"When the game starts, it will probably be a little different," Sheffield said. "Just watching on TV, you know it's always different when the Yankees are playing."

Now, he won't have to watch on TV.

By George: With his team set to begin the postseason on Tuesday, George Steinbrenner issued a statement with his thoughts on the upcoming series.

"I'm just hopeful -- hopeful that the pitching is okay and that we are playing championship baseball," Steinbrenner said. "I am hopeful for New York and I want to give New York a championship."

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Opening lineup: Although Torre hadn't finalized his roster, he did announce his starting lineup for the first game of the ALDS, as the Yankees face Twins lefty Johan Santana.

Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez will continue to give the Yankees a strong 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup, while Gary Sheffield, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada will provide the pop in the middle. Hideki Matsui will bat sixth, followed by designated hitter Ruben Sierra, John Olerud and Miguel Cairo.

Mr. October Jr.? Derek Jeter has had tremendous success in his first eight postseasons, compiling a .314 average in 99 playoff contests. With 123 hits, he is only one of two players with 100 or more hits in the playoffs, joining teammate Bernie Williams, who is second with 108.

So what makes Jeter so good when the calendar flips to October?

"You're trying to jinx me now," he said when asked that exact question. "It's fun. This is what you play for. I've grown up playing in October, so it's nothing new, but it's still exciting every year."

In 33 ALDS games, Jeter has a .368 average, having hit .429 against the Twins last season. But that previous success doesn't mean much to Jeter, who believes that past performances don't dictate future ones.

"Throw it out the window," he said. "Every year is different, every series is different."

Jeter, who is entering his second postseason as team captain, feels pretty good about the state of his team, even with the question marks surrounding the Yankees' pitching staff.

"The pitching staff got us 100 wins, so we've been pretty good," said Jeter. "I think everyone would like to have the problems we have."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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