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Williams to wait to see if guaranteed spot opens

TAMPA, Fla. -- Bernie Williams rejected the
New York Yankees' offer of a minor league contract and will wait to see if a
guaranteed job opens up for him on the team.

Yankees manager Joe Torre spoke with Williams last week and
tried to reach him, without success, on Sunday.

"Bernie told me he had talked with Joe. Other than the invite,
there wasn't any information that led him to believe he would be a
member of the team," Williams' agent, Scott Boras, said Tuesday.
"He's continuing to work out, will wait to see if their position
changes."

Williams signed with the Yankees in 1985 and came up to the
major league team in 1991. Torre had hoped the outfielder would be
on the field as position players started workouts Tuesday and that
Williams would compete for a spot on the roster.

"Evidently, what I've said to him hasn't been enough for him,"
Torre said. "I know he was down when I talked to him."

Williams helped the Yankees win four World Series titles from
1996-2000 and is hurt the team hasn't offered him a guaranteed job.
Now 38, he lost his starting center field spot to Johnny Damon last
year but hit .281 with 12 homers and 61 RBIs in 420 at-bats as a
backup, seeing significant time after Hideki Matsui and
Gary Sheffield got hurt.

"He certainly feels he can be a helpful contributor in '07,"
Boras said. "He wants to remain loyal to the Yankees and doesn't
feel it's appropriate for him to play for another club."

Williams hasn't returned calls from Yankees players or general
manager Brian Cashman.

"You'd have to be stupid not to interpret the answer. He's
given us the answer," Cashman said. "If something changes, I
guess he'll let us know first. But it's time to start focusing on
who we have here now."

Yankees captain Derek Jeter and others have said it will be
"weird" to go through spring training without Williams.

"I think we're all kind of waiting to see if he walks through
the door," Damon said. "He meant so much to our team last year.
Without him, it would have been a different story. He filled in
nicely for me when I was banged up. He filled in nicely for Matsui
and Sheffield. Bernie's the type of guy who can play probably
another three or four years at a high level. He just wants to do it
here."

If the Yankees start the season without Williams, his corner
locker at Yankee Stadium will be offered to closer Mariano Rivera,
whose current locker is adjacent.

"I would take it under consideration," Rivera said. "My spot
is a great spot. I've been there a few years. But, like I said, I
would take it under consideration knowing the organization is
thinking about it."