Notes: Cabrera hopes for playing time

Notes: Cabrera hopes for playing time

TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees outfielder Melky Cabrera said Monday he was disappointed by his absence from the Caribbean World Series earlier this month.

Cabrera, 22, had played center field for the Aguilas Cibeanas during the Dominican Winter League season, but was asked by the Yankees to refrain from playing in the Feb. 2-7 event to rest for the upcoming season.

"I wish I could have played," Cabrera said. "I wanted to be champion."

Aguilas didn't need much help, winning five of six games in the Caribbean Series -- a tournament that also featured the winter league champions from Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

Cabrera batted .280 with seven home runs, 50 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 130 games for the Yankees last season. He enters 2007 as the club's lone backup outfielder, figuring to play in reserve behind Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu.

Cabrera said that he worked over the winter to improve his strength and flexibility, and has had a few conversations with general manager Brian Cashman about what he might be able to offer this season.

"I want to play every day if they let me," Cabrera said. "I told Cash that I would play every outfield position. I want to contribute and help the team win."

Cashman said that Cabrera's progress played a major factor in the decision not to offer a Major League contract to 38-year-old veteran Bernie Williams.

"It's fair to say, in most other situations on other teams, [Cabrera] would be a starter," Cashman said. "He's a power threat and he has a quality bat. His at-bats take up the ones that would normally be there for Bernie."

Speaking of Bernie ... : Cashman said that he has not heard from Williams, and does not believe the outfielder will accept the Yankees' standing non-roster invitation to camp.

"It appears he has made his decision," Cashman said.

Catcher Jorge Posada attempted to reach Williams again on Sunday without success. Posada has said that, given a similar situation, he believes he would have accepted the Yankees' invitation and had hoped to convey those thoughts to Williams.

"I would have told him to get here and try and earn a job," Posada said. "You show them that you still belong."

Manager Joe Torre left the Legends Field facility early on Monday, still suffering from flu-like symptoms. Cashman said he did not know if Torre had spoken to Williams.

A few early A-bombs: Shortly after addressing the media and his friendship with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez ventured a few hundred yards down Tampa's Dale Mabry Highway and unloaded some long batting-practice home runs.

Rodriguez appeared rusty during his first turn in the cage but the two-time MVP later hit six home runs during the session, including explosive bombs over the left-field fence that nearly clipped parked automobiles.

Rodriguez appears to have quickened his stride and reduced a bob in his left foot, making his swing quicker and more compact.

"I worked on getting back to the basics and making things simple," said Rodriguez, who spent several weeks at the University of Miami working out with teammate Doug Mientkiewicz.

"Last year, I felt myself starting to get too complicated with things, almost to the point I was overthinking things."

Feeling lighter: Carl Pavano threw his bullpen session Monday without incident, one day after experiencing a sensation of "heavy legs" caused by days of running on grass.

Pavano said he incorporated breaking balls into his repertoire for the first time this spring and that his legs felt better.

Couch potato: Steven White will think twice before dozing off while watching TV. The right-hander, 25, has been cleared to return to the mound after experiencing soreness last week in his shoulder and neck, stemming from an odd sleeping angle.

Additionally, catcher Raul Chavez is impressing the Yankees with his quick recovery from a broken left hand suffered in winter ball. Chavez, 33, could begin taking live batting practice next week, Cashman said.

Quotable: "Andy [Pettitte]'s your guy. They share the same lung." -- Jason Giambi, when asked to handicap Roger Clemens' potential destination for the 2007 season.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Contributor Chris Girandola added to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.