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Williams glad to be a Yankee

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 30, 2001


NEW YORK -- Gerald Williams is happier being a Yankee than being a Ray.

He didn't come out and say it just that way Friday at his reintroductory Yankee Stadium news conference, because he doesn't come out and say anything that succinctly.

But in his own condescending manner, Williams made it pretty clear, talking about how "outstanding" it felt to be back with the Yankees and gushing about the franchise's storied tradition and commitment to excellence.

"Let's just say I'm happy with the decision I rendered," Williams said.

Williams was released Sunday by the Rays and weighed offers from several teams before rejoining the Yankees, with whom he started his career.

"When I was released, I no longer had a team so it gave me freedom," Williams said. "Most people would look at it a different way, but I felt free. It gave me an opportunity once again to select something that would be best for me, so in an odd sort of way I kind of almost get what I want, huh?"

The Rays will pay all but about $103,000 of his $3-million salary this season, and he'll get $2-million from the Yankees in 2002.

Williams was 66 plate appearances shy of vesting a $4-million option for next season at the time of his release, and it is likely his agent, Seth Levinson, will file a grievance to recoup the additional $2-million. Levinson has declined to return phone calls all week.

Williams probably will be a part-time player, though manager Joe Torre said he wasn't sure of the exact plans for the 34-year-old veteran.

"We're sort of surprised he became available," Torre said.

GUZMAN A GO: Juan Guzman, recovering from June 2000 shoulder surgery, is scheduled to begin a 30-day minor-league rehabilitation stint on Sunday with a start for Double-A Orlando. ... Wilson Alvarez, nearing the end of his rehab, is scheduled to start tonight for Triple-A Durham.

GUILLEN A NO-GO: The good news is the MRI exam on outfielder Jose Guillen's left knee showed only inflammation and no tears. "It's not a surgical situation," trainer Jamie Reed said. The bad news is Guillen probably will need at least four weeks of rehab before he can resume playing.

FLASHPOINT: Manager Hal McRae has settled on a plan for playing catchers Mike DiFelice and John Flaherty. DiFelice will be the primary catcher, but Flaherty will catch for Tanyon Sturtze and Albie Lopez, usually on consecutive days. "I think that's the way to go, and they seem to work well together," McRae said.

HAMSTRUNG: Fred McGriff and Randy Winn continue to be slowed by sore left hamstrings. McGriff has been limited to DH duties the past five games after being out of the lineup for three. Winn has missed the past three games.

SIGN OF THE TIMES: With Williams in pinstripes, the Rays had to change the signs third-base coach Terry Collins uses to signal strategy to hitters and baserunners. But McRae said it is not a complicated process. "You just change the indicator, so you only have to change one sign," he said.

RAYS BITS: The Rays expressed interest in reliever Dan Miceli, who was released by Florida, but agent Tim Shannon said Miceli would prefer to go to a contender unless he got a multiyear deal. ... Brent Abernathy has hits in all five games since being called up. ... Bryan Rekar is 1-5 against the Yankees, 0-3 at Yankee Stadium. ... The Rays, with a 9-17 record, need to win today to avoid their worst June.

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