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09/17/06 9:15 PM ET

Cabrera continues to impress

Rookie playing at high level as Sheffield nears return

NEW YORK -- Melky Cabrera is making Joe Torre's decision more difficult with each passing day.

Cabrera made an amazing catch along the left-field line and went 2-for-4 with a clutch RBI single in Sunday's doubleheader opener. He is now 6-for-12 in the Boston series, in which he has been hitting at or near the top of the order.

"He's exciting now, and I can just imagine down the road a little bit," Torre said. "The fans are going to love watching him."

It remains to be seen how much they'll get to witness. With Hideki Matsui expected to return to left field after the Yankees' next road trip, the question becomes: "What happens to Melky?"

Torre has said manning left field is Matsui's job and that he won't make a decision until the time comes. Cabrera could become a versatile option off the bench, or Matsui could remain as the team's designated hitter to allow Cabrera to stay in left field.

"He's not auditioning," Torre said. "This kid gave us more than we could ask for, obviously, holding the fort down until Matsui came back. I don't think, hypothetically, if he doesn't start if we get to the playoffs means that he's a failure in any way."

The Red Sox's decisive four-run seventh inning could have been much worse if it weren't for Cabrera. With nobody out, the 22-year-old rookie raced all the way to the left-field line on a Eric Hinske pop up and made a leaning snow-cone catch just before crashing into and over the short wall.

"Oh my goodness," Torre said when asked about the catch, adding that Cabrera flapped his glove just before crashing into the wall so the ball didn't come out. "He's an instinctive player. ... He's a kid in the park playing ball right now. He's having a good time."

Cabrera said he is just glad for the opportunity that he has had and that he's fine with whatever decision Torre makes.

"It's been great," Cabrera said. "I appreciate the opportunity the manager has given me, the confidence. But it's not over yet. The best is yet to come."

With a star-studded outfield, Cabrera's future is somewhat hazy. But Torre said that center field could be in his future. Cabrera, who is tied for the American League lead in outfield assists, said that center field would naturally be his favorite outfield position.

"It's whoever is the hottest," current center fielder Johnny Damon said of who should man left field. "Hopefully everybody gets hot at the same time so Joe has a really tough decision."

Cabrera couldn't be much hotter than he is now.

Ryan Mink is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.