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A-Rod goes deep, Sheffield OK

Alex Rodriguez showed off his power and made a mistake on defense.

The New York Yankees were more concerned with good news about Gary Sheffield.

The All-Star slugger got a thumb’s up from a hand specialist Tuesday and will return to spring training instead of having surgery to repair a torn ligament.

“Gary Sheffield is one tough cookie, an exceptional athlete and a leader with tremendous determination to win,” New York owner George Steinbrenner said. “He will be a big factor for the Yankees, and I applaud his courage.”

Sheffield, who reinjured his right thumb last weekend, was examined in New York by Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser. The right fielder immediately headed back to Tampa, Fla., and will resume playing later this week.

“We’re not out of the woods on this, don’t get me wrong,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “But today’s news was certainly more encouraging.”

Also encouraging was the two-run homer Rodriguez hit in a 10-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves. It was his first home run in a Yankees uniform.

However, A-Rod botched a popup near the mound, allowing Rafael Furcal to reach on an infield single.

“Those are the kinds of things I want to happen down in spring training,” said the former Gold Glove shortstop, who is making the move to third base with the Yankees. “I’ve been working hard on popups. It didn’t show on that play. Pretty sad.”

At the plate, the AL MVP sent a drive over the fence in right-center on the first pitch he saw from John Thomson, prompting cheers from the crowd of 10,253 at Legends Field.

“These fans have a lot of energy,” Rodriguez said. “I know it goes to a whole ‘nother level at the Stadium. It’s great to hear them. They’re into it – seems like a lot more than we are.”

Rodriguez, acquired from Texas on Feb. 16 for Alfonso Soriano, had not driven in a run in his first four exhibition games for New York. He also singled and grounded out against the Braves and is batting .462 (6-for-13) with five runs scored this spring.

Johnny Estrada hit a grand slam, J.D. Drew had a two-run homer and Marcus Giles added a solo shot off Gabe White during Atlanta’s seven-run third inning.

Drew has homered in each of his four spring training games. He had also had a run-scoring triple in the first and has 10 RBIs overall.

Yankees right-hander Mike Mussina gave up one run and three hits over two innings in his spring training debut.

In other exhibition games:

Reds 3, Red Sox 2

At Fort Myers, Fla., Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling gave up a run each in 5 2-3 innings for the Red Sox, who managed just three hits against five Reds pitchers.

Expos 7, Dodgers 3

At Viera, Fla., Eric Gagne pitched a perfect inning in his spring debut, but Montreal rallied for six runs in the seventh. Los Angeles’ Darren Dreifort also threw a scoreless inning in his first outing since last June.

Blue Jays 7, Tigers 7

At Lakeland, Fla., Tigers reliever Matt Anderson gave up four runs in the ninth inning. Chad Hermansen hit a two-run homer for the Blue Jays.

Astros 14, Indians 3

At Winter Haven, Fla., Craig Biggio had four hits, Adam Everett drove in four runs and Houston handed Cleveland its first loss of spring training. Jeff Bagwell went 3-for-3 with three RBIs and Lance Berkman also drove in three runs for the Astros.

Pirates 5, Devil Rays 1

At Bradenton, Fla., Craig Wilson’s three-run homer off Damian Moss in the first inning backed the strong pitching of Oliver Perez.

Phillies 4, Twins 3

At Clearwater, Fla., Lou Collier’s two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth won it for Philadelphia.

Marlins 9, Mets 3

At Port St. Lucie, Fla., Hee Seop Choi and Wil Cordero hit consecutive home runs and Florida won its fifth straight. Darren Oliver pitched four solid innings in his first start for the World Series champions.

Mariners 6, Rangers 2

At Peoria, Ariz., Gil Meche, Ron Villone and Clint Nageotte combined to allow one hit through seven innings, and Bucky Jacobsen homered for Seattle.

Athletics 16, Padres 10

At Phoenix, Bobby Crosby homered twice in the first inning, including a grand slam. It was the second outburst in four days for the Athletics, who beat Anaheim 26-3 last Saturday.

Crosby, Miguel Tejada’s replacement at shortstop, hit both homers off losing pitcher Adam Eaton and is batting .467 (7-for-15) this spring. Eric Chavez, Mark Kotsay and Marco Scutaro also homered for the A’s.

Angels 10, Diamondbacks 3

At Tucson, Ariz., Chone Figgins hit a three-run homer, helping Anaheim score nine times in the last three innings. Richie Sexson singled for his first hit with the Diamondbacks.

Brewers 7, Giants 5

At Phoenix, Junior Spivey homered off a struggling Jason Schmidt, and Chris Capuano threw three scoreless innings for Milwaukee.

Schmidt, runner-up for the NL Cy Young Award last season, fell to 0-2 in two outings since right elbow surgery. He had trouble keeping the ball down and was tagged for five runs and seven hits in three innings.

San Francisco outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds could miss six weeks after he was hit on the right thumb by Capuano’s pitch.

Rockies 11, White Sox 4

At Tucson, Ariz., Matt Holliday went 5-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored to lead Colorado.

Chin-hui Tsao, a Taiwan native considered the Rockies’ top prospect, struck out six in three innings and gave up one earned run.

Royals 6, Cubs 5

At Surprise, Ariz., Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run homer for Chicago, but Kansas City overcame a shaky outing by Darrell May.

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