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Williams on standby

Boras speaks; Beltran, Sierra rally to Bernie's defense

Posted: Tuesday February 20, 2007 2:25PM; Updated: Tuesday February 20, 2007 4:12PM
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Bernie Williams wants the Yankees to indicate he will make the club if he reports to camp.
Bernie Williams wants the Yankees to indicate he will make the club if he reports to camp.
Jay Gula/WireImage.com

By Jon Heyman, SI.com

Bernie Williams' plan is to remain home and stay in shape but only come to Yankees camp if the team tells him he's needed.

In other words, Williams is apparently willing to take the non-guaranteed, non-roster invite, but only if the Yankees somehow signal to him that his spot is more guaranteed than the contract would suggest.

"Bernie is not retiring but is loyal to the Yankees and feels he can be a important contributor to the '07 team,'' Williams' agent Scott Boras said Tuesday morning.

Yankees manager Joe Torre recently told Williams by phone that he'd have an opportunity to make the team but stopped well short of guaranteeing a spot, and general manager Brian Cashman told Yankees reporters on Sunday that the team was losing hope Williams would join his teammates in Tampa.

Williams is thought to be quite upset to be in baseball limbo after producing a nice 2006 season -- .281 with 12 home runs and 61 RBIs -- and some veteran players around the game are expressing surprise and support for Williams. Two Mets, Carlos Beltran and Ruben Sierra, joined Yankees teammate Mariano Rivera on Tuesday in saying Williams deserves to be on the Yankees. And actually, Beltran went even further, saying it says something about the business side of the sport that Williams is put in a position of having to try out for the team.

"It shows us that as a player there's no loyalty in this game,'' Beltran told SI.com. "When you're going good, everyone wants you. When you get up in age, people don't pay attention.''

Sierra, once a teammate of Williams' on the Yankees, said, "It's tough the way baseball is. He had a good season for a guy who doesn't play every day. Maybe they were expecting a little bit more. But that's the Yankees. When they don't win the World Series, maybe they try something different.''

While nobody sees Williams as a scapegoat, the Yankees' probable new alignment is indeed something unusual: three first basemen (counting longtime first baseman Jason Giambi as a first baseman).

Said Beltran: "It's a difficult situation. It's sad to see a guy like Bernie Williams, who played his whole life for the New York Yankees and done so many good things, including win the World Series, and who had the year he had last year, not get a job again. I think he deserves to be with them because he can still play baseball and he can still help any ballclub. He can help young guys, he can help with his experience and he knows how to play the game.

"To me, he deserves an opportunity after the year he had,'' continued Beltran, who like Williams and Sierra is also from Puerto Rico. "He was a good player for many years. Now all their players are going to be thinking differently.''

Beltran was alluding to Rivera, who recently expressed dismay about the Yankees' decision to delay offering him a contract extension and who also suggested Williams should have a spot. "You never hear Rivera say anything,'' Beltran said.

But he did this spring. Rivera last week told SI.com, "I think Bernie shouldn't be treated this way.''

Williams' two friends on the Mets would agree. "The Yankees have lots of good guys over there,'' Sierra said, "But to me, Bernie's the best.''