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Center field is Torre's priority

2006-07-28 16:24

  Yankees manager Joe Torre says the club is keeping its options open for a pressing need in center field - including the possible use of one of its two All-Star caliber shortstops, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

  New York manager Torre said he has considered the merits of converting either Jeter or Rodriguez, who has been playing third base since joining the Yankees, but has not raised the subject with either of his star players.

  “We've thought about it,” Torre said in an interview with Reuters on Monday.

  “We just haven't made a commitment to that. We haven't broached it with the shortstops.”

  The Yankees, eliminated in the first round of the playoffs this season by the Los Angeles Angels, are looking to replace the 37-year-old stalwart Bernie Williams, who slipped to 12 homers and 64 RBI last season.

  The former batting champion hit a mere .249 and his defensive qualities appeared to suffer a decline in standards.

  At next week's winter meetings in Dallas, the Yankees will also be taking a hard look at the prospects of landing free agent candidates such as Brian Giles of the San Diego Padres and Johnny Damon of the arch-rival Boston Red Sox.

  Echoing a scenario laid out by General Manager Brian Cashman, Torre said the Yanks could yet decide to go with their own light-hitting defensive specialist Bubba Crosby in center field.

  The position has been one of baseball's glamour positions over the generations for the Yankees with Joe DiMaggio giving way to Mickey Mantle and the last decade artfully manned by the graceful, clutch-hitting Williams.

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