Yankees still have need; all options being weighed

NEW YORK -- Yankees manager Joe Torre said Monday the club is keeping its options open for its pressing need of a center fielder, including the possible use of one of its two All-Star-caliber shortstops, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

Torre said he has considered the merits of converting either shortstop Jeter or AL MVP Rodriguez, who has been playing third base since joining the Yankees, but has not raised the subject with either of his star players.

"We've thought about it," Torre said. "We just haven't made a commitment to that. We haven't broached it with the shortstops."

However, general manager Brian Cashman told ESPN's Buster Olney that neither Jeter nor Rodriguez would be playing center field next season.

"There's no way we'd do that. We haven't talked about it. It hasn't been discussed," Cashman said.

The Yankees, eliminated in the first round of the playoffs this season by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, are looking to replace 37-year-old Yankee lifer Bernie Williams, who slipped to 12 homers and 64 RBI last season.

Williams, a former batting champion, hit .249 and has been on the decline defensively in the last couple of seasons.

Echoing a scenario laid out by Cashman, Torre said the Yankees might decide to forgo the free-agent route and go with their own light-hitting defensive specialist, Bubba Crosby, in center field.

If Jeter were to move to center field, it would leave open the possibility of Rodriguez sliding to the left in the infield to take Jeter's place.

"That's happened before, hasn't it?" Torre said about converting a power-hitting infielder into an outfielder. "Bobby Murcer, Mickey Mantle. Hank Aaron came up as a second baseman. Robin Yount went to center field.

"It certainly is a consideration."

Torre said he did not think it would take Rodriguez or Jeter very long to get accustomed to the outfield and that after spring training, either one could do a good job if moved.
Though he stressed that such a dramatic position switch was wishful thinking, he said he did not doubt that the two stars would do what was in the Yankees' best interest if asked.

"Jeter would do anything and so would A-Rod for that matter, to help this ballclub win," Torre said.

Information from Reuters was used in this report.