Yanks shake up roster, lineup after win

Yanks shake up roster, lineup after win

ST. PETERSBURG -- One day after reaching their season nadir, the Yankees were dramatically altered with a series of stunning moves announced late Monday evening.

The moves detailed with a forlorn face by manager Joe Torre may have signaled the end of Bernie Williams' 15-year run in center field.

As a result, Tony Womack, who has made five outfield appearances since 1999, will be unveiled as New York's new left fielder Tuesday night, when Robinson Cano will also make his Major League debut as the Bombers' new second baseman.

Furthermore, Randy Johnson will defer to the slight groin tweak he incurred late in his complete-game loss Friday and miss his scheduled start here Wednesday. Left-hander Sean Henn will be called up and make the start in the Big Unit's place.

And still that isn't all of it:

• Hideki Matsui will shift over to center field and replace Williams, whose sore right elbow has made him a liability in the field.

• Steve Karsay will be designated for assignment on Tuesday, ending his resolute comeback from shoulder surgery nearly two years ago. Karsay's spot actually is the one that will be occupied by Cano.

And the Yankees had won Monday, defeating the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 6-2, behind Mike Mussina.

But the dominos were toppled in the wake of their 8-6 loss on Sunday to Toronto, and delayed a day only in deference to tough lefty Scott Kazmir, the Rays' starting pitcher Monday night.

General manager Brian Cashman and Torre wanted an easier break-in for Cano, clearly the 22-year-old centerpiece of the overhaul.

"As a staff, we felt this kid was very close to being ready (in Spring Training), we just didn't have the room," Torre said. "Now that we're scuffling, it's a good time to try it. We need to find out what's going to help us win.

"We needed to do something, we needed a little energy. Brian and I talked after [Sunday's] game."

"We're looking for ways to get going, trying things," Cashman said. "We have to find a way to get this going in the right direction.

"This is a way to get [Cano] up, and make the puzzle pieces fit a little differently."

But Williams is one piece apparently out, for the present.

"At this point, all everyone wants is for us to win games," Williams said. "Pride ... all that stuff ... that's out the window. My job now becomes to make myself available to play."

The 36-year-old outfielder's physical woes were magnified in Sunday's game. Eric Hinske, not exactly a speed merchant, easily scored on a fly ball caught by Williams in very shallow center field.

Williams, who started in his usual spot Monday night and batted ninth, had a pair of singles, after the second of which he was lifted for pinch-runner Bubba Crosby -- so he could replace him defensively.

"I can throw, but not with any significant strength," Williams said. "It's always disappointing when you're hurt and can't play at 100 percent."

Rather than go on the disabled list, Williams becomes an option at DH. That will become a crowded situation when Jason Giambi's forearm stops cramping and Ruben Sierra returns from his partially-torn biceps.

"It's not easy for me to tell Bernie we don't want him in the outfield right now," Torre said. "It's tough for him."

Womack had a wry attitude toward his imminent outfield debut -- especially in Tropicana Field, where on Monday night he had witnessed Devil Rays outfielders mess up a couple of fly balls.

"I'm not going to make a big deal of this," said Womack, who did play the outfield exclusively for Arizona in 1999 but, except for 123 games that season, has appeared in the outfield only 17 other times in a 13-year career. "I'm going to play, catch the ball, and throw it to the guy nearest to me.

"Guess these guys want to win. So do I."

Matsui, who played center field last season when Williams was unable to, said, "It's not a problem. If that's what they tell me, that's what I'll prepare for. I do not have a preference."

Karsay had appeared in six games, allowing 10 hits and four earned runs in six innings. He actually wore a broad smile in the clubhouse.

"I'm not surprised. I'm glad about this. Maybe I'll have a chance to go help someone else," Karsay said. "I appreciate the chances I was given here."

As for the decision to skip Johnson's turn here, it was made even before the pitcher played some light catch prior to Monday's game.

"He wanted to go out and try it, but even before I told him, 'Don't push it,' Torre said. "I'd rather have him miss a turn now, than maybe have it turn into something long-term."

Having stimulated the media around him with his machine-gun roster anouncements, the manager flashed a bittersweet grin.

"I really screwed it up, didn't I?" Torre said. "Nobody's talking about the game."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.