Archive for Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Lofton ready to compete with Williams

Yanks complete pact with center fielder

December 24, 2003

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— Kenny Lofton is ready to replace Bernie Williams as the New York Yankees' center fielder.

"They said they want me to play center field," Lofton said Tuesday after the Yankees finalized his $6.2 million, two-year contract. "I am a center fielder, and they know that."

Yankees manager Joe Torre expects the 36-year-old Lofton and 35-year-old Williams to compete for the job during spring training.

"I'm going to go in there and do exactly what the team wants me to do," Lofton said. "If they want me to play center field, I'll play center field. If they want me to park cars, I'll do that."

The loser of the Lofton-Williams battle is expected to become the Yankees' regular designated hitter. Lofton said he wouldn't mind being a DH "if that's what the team wants me to do."

He also isn't worried about how fans will react if he takes the center-field job from Williams, who has held it since 1993.

Williams, a four-time Gold Glove winner, had limited range when he returned from surgery on his left knee last May, and his arm has been weakened by shoulder problems.

Lofton hit .296 last season for Pittsburgh and the Chicago Cubs, with 12 homers, 46 RBIs and 30 steals. He gets $3.1 million in each of the next two seasons, including $1 million annually that is deferred without interest.

New York also announced its $7.25 million, two-year contract with right-hander Tom Gordon, whose deal was completed Dec. 16.

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