ATLANTA -- For a moment or two Friday night, Gary Sheffield seemed destined to join other high profile members of the Mets' batting order on the disabled list. The Mets left fielder and the player who has batted cleanup most often slowly walked off Turner Field in the fifth inning, after apparently injuring his right leg while pursuing a double by Yunel Escobar. But the diagnosis of the Mets trainers was that Sheffield had suffered a cramp and that the problem wasn't as serious as it first appeared.

Sheffield grabbed the back of his right leg after the ball had been retrieved and the Braves had taken a 9-0 lead. Jerry Manuel and the Mets trainer joined him in left-center field and later escorted him off the field.

With the Mets' rash of injuries lately, Manuel had to joke about it following the Mets' 11-0 loss.

"They're saying it's cramps," the manager said, barely pausing before delivering the punchline: "Surgery Thursday."

The Mets manager tried to censor himself, but television cameras can be unaccommodating. The word was out even if Sheffield isn't.

It should be noted that the worst possible scenario didn't revisit the Mets as seemed to be the case at one point. Sheffield wasn't seriously injured. The problem that forced him to the clubhouse during the Braves' four-run rally in the fifth inning was not a muscle strain or tear. The Mets didn't even schedule an MRI exam. The injury they scarcely could afford didn't happen.