Yanks' Williams hints he'd like to keep stripes

Al Notebook

Mlb Week

October 02, 2005

Bernie Williams isn't allowing himself to think about it.

Today's regular-season finale at Fenway Park could be his last as a New York Yankee. He might never again be part of the New York-Boston rivalry. That's a difficult concept for someone who played his entire 15-season, big league career in pinstripes.

"My main focus right now is to finish the year strong," Williams said last week. "Hopefully, if I can take care of things this year, and the team finishes up well, the future here will take care of itself."

The Yankees held a $15 million option on Williams for 2006 but bought it out in August. They haven't ruled out bringing him back at a reduced rate, and Williams, 37, reportedly would love to retire having played for only one team.

"In the sense of not incriminating myself too much, I'd rather not really talk too much about this subject, but I would say this: There is not a lot of people that get the opportunity to do that," Williams said. "For people that have been able to do it, it is a great accomplishment."

He also wants to play as much as possible, and if he returned to the Yankees, it likely would be as a part-time designated hitter and a reserve outfielder.

A four-time Gold Glove center fielder, Williams has a suspect arm and declining speed that have made him a detriment in center. And he will finish with his lowest home-run total since the strike-shortened 1994 season. Still, he's a Yankee legend - a four-time World Series champion who moved past Joe DiMaggio for fourth all-time on the club's hit list.

"He's a Yankee. He'll be back. I'd like to see him back," catcher Jorge Posada said. "He brings a lot to this team. He means a lot to this team and a lot to this game, and I'd hate to see him somewhere else."

Just a thought

The Orioles haven't seen the last of closer B.J. Ryan. They'll likely be staring at him about 19 times next year. Boston manager Terry Francona fawned all over Ryan at the All-Star Game, and the Yankees reportedly want Ryan to set up Mariano Rivera for two years before becoming the closer.

Both teams have the money and the winning tradition to lure the big left-hander, whose hometown discount fell off the Orioles' table in March.

One industry source said Ryan would have accepted a three-year, $15 million deal this spring in "half a heartbeat," but the Orioles' offer was closer to $10 million - a sweet deal for a setup man, but not for a premier closer.

At the time, Ryan was between roles, and the sides failed to close the gap by Ryan's imposed Opening Day deadline. Now expect Ryan, 29, to command at least a three-year, $21 million deal like the one the Giants' Armando Benitez got last offseason.

Not bad work

The Cleveland Indians met last week and decided anyone on the 25-man roster all season would receive a full playoff share, if the team made the postseason. That includes often-injured outfielder Juan Gonzalez, who tore his right hamstring off the bone May 31 while facing his third pitch of the season.

Quick hits

An Internet betting service is offering 6-1 odds if you think Rafael Palmeiro will play in the majors in 2006. ... Several Oakland Athletics, including Barry Zito and Bobby Crosby, have publicly said they want manager Ken Macha back. His contract expires at season's end.

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