Report: Bernie says no to Yanks' spring training invite

Updated: February 10, 2007, 4:15 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Five-time All-Star Bernie Williams has rejected the New York Yankees' offer of a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training, according to newspaper reports.

Bernie Williams
Williams

Instead, Williams on Friday revealed his preference to stay at home, stay in shape, spend time with his family and wait to see if the Yankees change their minds and offer him a guaranteed roster spot.

"I think if they wanted me they would have signed me already," Williams told reporters at a benefit in Connecticut on Friday night. "The option to go to spring training and see what happened -- I don't think at this moment it is something I want to consider."

The Daily News quoted Williams as saying, "I'm working out, but I think the way it looks right now, it doesn't seem like I'm going to be playing with that team this year."

Williams, who has been with the Yankees since 1991, has made no secret of his desire to remain with them. But with the team's plan to go with 12 pitchers, platoon at first base and move Jason Giambi to designated hitter, there is no spot on a 25-man roster for the 38-year-old Williams at this point, general manager Brian Cashman said.

"We love and respect Bernie, but with the dynamic of our roster, there's not a spot," The New York Times quoted Cashman as saying. "We had a lot of conversations with him. I understand that he doesn't want to accept a minor league deal."

Johnny Damon took Williams' job as the starter in center last year, and Melky Cabrera is slated to be the fourth outfielder.

Yankees manager Joe Torre likes Williams' abilities, which could weigh in his favor if he does come to camp.

Williams filled in capably last season when Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield were injured, batting .281 with 12 homers and 61 RBIs.

Williams said he's fully aware of the team's plans, but he is not ready to call it a career.

"As it is right now, it doesn't seem like I am going to be playing with that team this year," Williams said in the Times story. But "it is just part of the game. It is what makes this interesting."

Yankees captain Derek Jeter said it would be "unfortunate" if Williams doesn't return to the team.

"You never like to see that aspect, you know with Bernie, what he's meant to the organization," Jeter said Saturday in Tampa, Fla., at a baseball clinic. "I'm not up to date or up to par with all the negotiations and things like that. I would love to see Bernie come back."

Williams' locker at Legends Field, the Yankees' spring training home, did not have a name tag above it Saturday.

"It's a decision he has to make," Jeter said. "Hopefully, he makes the best decision for him."

New York's pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training on Tuesday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.