Williams not worried about fighting for center

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Whatever position he winds up playing,
Bernie Williams would welcome Carlos Beltran to the New York
Beltran is a prime free agent, and the Yankees are expected to
pursue him hard. He plays center field, the same spot Williams has
held down in the Bronx since 1992.
Recently, Beltran told Houston reporters that Williams offered
this season to move aside for him in 2005. On Tuesday night, agent
Scott Boras -- who represents both players -- added "that's
something they've talked about and dealt with."
On Wednesday, Williams put a slightly different spin on what
they said.
"It was kind of like a lighter-tone conversation in-between
batting practice," Williams said. "I think he took it as I took
it. Kind of like a lighthearted, kind of like in the middle of the
battle, 'I admire your skill and it would be good if you came to
our team.'
"But I didn't make any big deal out of it and I think, at that
time, he didn't make a big deal out of it. I think, at this point,
that's all I know," he said.
His comments came on a conference call that was arranged before
Boras made his remarks about Beltran and Williams.
"When two friends meet to talk about how the season is going,
they say a lot of things. I think having our agent being the same
person, there is going to be some talk regarding the future of each
individual," Williams said. "I think Scott is going to have a
pretty interesting situation on his hands."
Williams, 36, hit .262 in 2004, a career low for a
full season, with 22 home runs and 70 RBIs. A five-time All-Star
and four-time Gold Glove winner, he's had two subpar years by his
own admission, slowed by knee problems and an appendectomy, with
his defensive ability declining.
Beltran, 27, hit a combined 38 home runs with 104 RBIs, and
stole 42 bases while batting .267 for Kansas City and Houston as a
first-time All-Star. Playing in the postseason for the first time,
he homered in a record five straight games for the Astros.
"To have a guy of that caliber coming to our team is not going
to hurt us," Williams said.
Williams played 97 games in center field last season. The
Yankees also have Kenny Lofton under contract for another year,
with Ruben Sierra and Jason Giambi sharing time at DH. Giambi also
plays first base, though health concerns have left his status
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman figured Williams would
still be a key contributor.
"We don't anticipate reducing his role," Cashman said. "He's
been in the middle of our championship runs for a long time. He's
going to be in the mix."
For now, Williams said he is not concerned about competition in
center from Beltran.
"First of all, I wouldn't consider it a fight. Last year, I
think there were a lot of things blown out of proportion about me
fighting to get my position and stuff like that and I never took it
at that," he said. "When the time comes and they want to make a
decision, I guess I'll cross that hurdle."
Williams is a lifetime .301 hitter. He holds career records in
the postseason with 22 home runs and 79 RBIs, and he came through
in the playoffs again last month.
"Next year is going to be a huge year for me. It doesn't really
matter what I've done in the past. I think my future is going to
depend a lot on my performance," he said. "Whatever the team
wants me to do to help the club be a better club, I'm more than
willing to do it."