<
>

No guarantees for Bernie after Mientkiewicz deal

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

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.