NEW YORK (AP) – The beleaguered New York Yankees pitching staff could get a boost next week from Jaret Wright, who has been on the disabled list since April 24 with a right shoulder strain.

Wright has been making progress while rehabilitating at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, Fla., and manager Joe Torre said Wednesday that he could return to the team soon.

“He’s been sharp,” Torre said. “We’ve got to wait and see. Based on his last few starts, it’s tough not to want him here.”

Wright and Carl Pavano were high-profile, free-agent signings for the Yankees last winter. Both have spent long stretches on the DL, Wright since the season’s first month and Pavano since July 7 with right shoulder tendinitis.

New York got bad news on Pavano. Dr. James Andrews and Yankees team physician Dr. Stuart Hershon agreed that the right-hander has rotator cuff tendinitis and will need at least six weeks of rest and rehabilitation. Pavano has not pitched since June 27.

“He’s willing to take the ball but he’s probably not going to be effective for us,” general manager Brian Cashman said after Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox in 10 innings.

The Yankees have used a major league-high 26 pitchers this season. Wright, Pavano and Kevin Brown (back), all part of the starting rotation when the season started, have spent long stretches on the disabled list. They were joined there by Chien-Ming Wang (right shoulder inflammation), one of the minor league call-ups, on July 13.

Torre said Wright might return and start as early as Monday when the Yankees play at Tampa Bay.

The lack of quality pitching has forced Torre to make some tough in-game decisions, and owner George Steinbrenner criticized his moves after Tuesday’s loss to the White Sox.

“George Steinbrenner owns this club, has a big investment in it, and he cares passionately about it,” Cashman said. “That is sometimes reflected in his comments. But Joe Torre gets paid to make these decisions. Some work out and some don’t.”

Meanwhile, Torre continues to piece together a rotation. With Randy Johnson shut down for at least one start because of back problems, the Yankees will start reliever Scott Proctor Thursday night against Texas. Torre said he hopes to have Johnson back for his regular turn next Tuesday.

Proctor started 61 times in the minor leagues but has not started a game since 2002. He has appeared in 15 games for the Yankees this season, all in relief.

Cashman was optimistic that Johnson would be OK by next week.

“I don’t think I have a high level of concern, it’s just a timing issue,” Cashman said. “I think he will be ready for his next turn but that may not necessarily be Tuesday. It may be Wednesday or Thursday, or however that works out.”

AP-ES-08-10-05 2006EDT

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