Joe Torre spoke to Bernie Williams and the message from the New York Yankees manager was clear: Come to spring training.
Williams, feeling slighted by the only major league team he's played for, has thus far refused to accept a minor league contract. After Torre left some telephone messages, the 38-year-old outfielder called back on Wednesday afternoon.
"The only thing I stressed to him yesterday is: `If you want to continue to play, you can't do it if you stay up there. We have to see you,'" Torre said Thursday.
Torre said that if Williams does come to spring training, he would have a real chance of earning a spot on the Yankees' 25-man roster
"It doesn't mean you have to hit .400," Torre said. "I think it's what you see more so than what the numbers are."
Williams has been one of Torre's favorites and helped the Yankees win four World Series and six AL pennants. Williams said last week that he was leaning against accepting the minor league contract but said he hadn't made up his mind.
"Yeah, it would be tough for me if you had to say goodbye," Torre said. "I sense he feels confident that he can still play this game."
Williams lost his starting job in center field to Johnny Damon last year. Because of injuries to Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield, Williams played a lot and hit .281 with 12 home runs and 61 RBIs in 420 at-bats.
New York doesn't currently have room for Williams because it plans to carry 12 pitchers, use Jason Giambi as a designated hitter and platoon Doug Mientkiewicz at first base with either Josh Phelps or Andy Phillips.
"If we see Jason as a first baseman, that all of a sudden opens up a spot," Torre said.
Torre spoke with Williams for about 20 minutes and planned to talk with him again in the next day or so.
"It's tough for him to feel wanted if it means getting spot on the 40-man roster at this point in time because there's no room," Torre said.
"I think we have to think more in terms of: `You come down and compete for a job and don't worry about the numbers,'" he said.
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