The beleaguered 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 and Manager Joe Torre said yesterday 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, as physician James Andrews and Yankees team physician 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.

Wright, Pavano and Kevin Brown (back woes), all part of the starting rotation when the season started, have spent long stretches on the disabled list for New York, which has used 26 pitchers this season, most in the majors. 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.

* AFTER PLUNGE, FAN ARRESTED: The fan who plunged from the upper deck at Yankee Stadium onto the screen behind home plate during Tuesday night's game between New York and the White Sox was released from the hospital into police custody yesterday.

The game was delayed for four minutes in the eighth inning after Scott Harper, 18, of Armonk, N.Y., plummeted about 40 feet onto the net. He was taken on a stretcher, his head immobilized in a neck brace, to Lincoln Medical Center, where he was treated and released.

Harper was charged with trespassing upon the playing area of a professional sporting event, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, and other violations, according to a criminal complaint.

He was arraigned in Bronx Criminal Court and released on his own recognizance, according to Steven Reed, a spokesman for the Bronx District Attorney's office. He did not enter a plea, Reed said, and faces up to a year in jail.

It was the second time in five years a fan dropped from the upper deck at Yankee Stadium. In May 2000, Stephen Laurenzi, 24, was unconscious for a short time while sprawled on the net during a game. He also was arrested and taken to a hospital for observation.

-- From News Services

New York's Jaret Wright, above, is nearly recovered from a strained shoulder.