No guarantees for Bernie after Mientkiewicz deal

Updated: January 7, 2007, 2:56 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- It appears the New York Yankees might not have room for Bernie Williams anymore.

Bernie Williams
Williams

The Yankees finalized their $1.5 million, one-year contract with Doug Mientkiewicz on Friday, and general manager Brian Cashman said he will be part of a platoon at first base with Andy Phillips or Josh Phelps. With Jason Giambi shifting to designated hitter and the Yankees planning to keep 12 pitchers, that leaves them with no spots open for Williams -- unless they trade Melky Cabrera.

The Yankees also signed utility infielder Miguel Cairo to a one-year $750,000 deal, according to the New York Post.

"I've had conversations with Bernie directly as well as Scott Boras throughout the winter about what opportunity may or may not be here in '07," Cashman said, referring to Williams' agent. "We're still filling our club out and I'd rather not really say more than that, but we've had an open and honest dialogue with Bernie and Scott Boras throughout the process, and that will continue. I really can't say much more than that right now. But clearly the plan is to have a right-handed and left-handed bat at first base and Giambi at DH."

Williams signed with the Yankees in 1985 and joined the major league team six years later. He helped New York win six AL pennants and four World Series titles, becoming a five-time All-Star and the 1998 AL batting champion.

He lost his starting job in center field when the Yankees signed Johnny Damon before last season. Kept as a backup, Williams wound up getting 420 at-bats because Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui got hurt. Williams hit .281 with 12 homers and 61 RBI.

"We're going to probably talk around the middle of the month, when they have more definition," Boras said.

Williams, who is 38, hasn't decided whether he would retire if the Yankees don't offer a contract.

"After the first of the year, I've had a couple of teams contact me about Bernie, and I've told them that I've got to talk with Bernie and I've also got to speak to Brian about what their deliberation is going to be on his future with the Yankees," Boras said. "He obviously will respond to what the Yankees' decision is, and we'll go from there."

Cashman, knowing that Williams is a fan favorite, chose his words carefully.

"Obviously, he's meant a lot to the franchise and been a big piece for quite some time. It's been a great marriage," Cashman said. "I'll have another conversation with Scott, and I'm sure I'll talk to Bernie, too."

Mientkiewicz is familiar with New York, having spent 2005 with the Mets. At Shea Stadium, he occasionally had a sign hanging in his locker.

"There will be no more 'No loitering' sign. We'll put that to rest," Mientkiewicz said, knowing that the Yankees usually are covered by more media than any other major league team.

In 2004, Mientkiewicz helped Boston win its first World Series title since 1918, catching the throw for the final out and keeping the ball. That sparked a furor that didn't end until he donated the ball to the Hall of Fame.

He was dealt to the New York Mets after the 2004 season and hit just .240 with 11 homers and 29 RBI.

"I think I'm much more prepared this time for the situation," Mientkiewicz said. "I had a lot of stuff going on in my life at the time when the Mets traded for me. My biggest regret you could say is the fact that I didn't show them the player I could be and I am."

Mientkiewicz said the distractions were "stuff going on with the family." He felt revived when he joined the Kansas City Royals last year, but he played hurt -- an injury that lingered from the previous year -- and had back surgery in August after hitting .283 with four homers and 43 RBI.

A former Gold Glove first baseman, the Yankees were impressed by his defense.

"I can do the dirty work, the stuff that goes unnoticed, the moving the guys over, the bunting guys over, the knocking the ball down to keep a double play in order," Mientkiewicz said.

Mientkiewicz was a high school teammate of Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who has struggled at times during three seasons in New York.

"You're talking about probably the guy that's going to go down as the best baseball player that ever played the game," Mientkiewicz said. "It's almost a detriment to himself that he works so hard and doesn't allow sometimes his ability to take over."

Notes
LHP Kei Igawa, who agreed last month to a $20 million, five-year contract, is to be introduced at a Yankee Stadium news conference Monday. ... Former Yankees star and current broadcaster Bobby Murcer returned home to Oklahoma this week after having brain surgery in Houston last week. The Yankees said he has had no setbacks since the surgery.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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