Torre knows moves must be made 

Torre knows moves must be made

The Yankees won 95 games and captured their eighth consecutive American League East title this season, but Joe Torre knows that there are areas that need improvement for the 2006 campaign.
The two glaring spots are center field and the bullpen, which the Yankees will try to address via free agency and the trade market.

"We have to improve our bullpen somewhat and find someone to play center field," Torre said. "Teams have to change all the time to try to stay up with things and try to improve."

Bernie Williams, who has roamed center field for the Yankees on a full-time basis since 1993, will be a free agent this winter, and his return to New York is far from certain.

Williams hit .249 with 12 home runs and 64 RBIs in 141 games this season, though he started just 99 games in center field. Even if he returns to the Yankees in 2006, it won't be as a starting center fielder, but as a role player off the bench and part-time designated hitter.

"I don't think that's outside the realm of possibility," Torre said. "Bernie enjoys being here; it's the only place he's ever been.

"I don't want to say he got used to it, but I think he understood this year, with his reduced role, that this is what he should be concentrating on. That doesn't mean he's not valuable."

The free agent market lacks many big-name center fielders, with Boston's Johnny Damon, San Diego's Brian Giles and Washington's Preston Wilson topping the list. Florida may consider dealing Juan Pierre, who is a year away from free agency, while Minnesota may shop Torii Hunter this winter.

Another option would be to play Hideki Matsui -- a free agent expected to re-sign with the Yankees -- in center field and sign a left fielder.

"That's always a possibility; we have to wait and see what our options are, see if we can zero in on any player that's going to fit," Torre said. "[Matsui] can play center field -- of course, 'Matty' has to be signed, too."

For the first time in several years, the Yankees won't be focused on acquiring starting pitching this winter. New York's staff was ravaged by injuries this season, using 14 pitchers to start games, but the Yankees should enter the 2006 season with seven starters under contract, assuming they offer arbitration to Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small. Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright and Chien-Ming Wang are under contract.

"Starting pitching should be fine," Torre said. "If we get healthy, and with Chacon and Wang, we should have numbers again."

The bullpen, however, needs some reinforcements to replace Tom Gordon, Al Leiter, Alan Embree and Felix Rodriguez, all of whom are free agents. Gordon could return, though he has said that he wants another chance to be a closer before he retires.

Baltimore left-hander B.J. Ryan tops the list of available relievers, though he will surely be pursued by teams looking for a new closer.

Bellhorn bolts: The Yankees announced Tuesday that infielder Mark Bellhorn has declined an outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus, instead electing to become a free agent.

Bellhorn hit .210 with eight home runs and 30 RBIs in 94 games with Boston and New York in 2005, hitting .118 with one home run and two RBIs in 17 at-bats for the Yankees.

He was released by Boston on Aug. 26, and he signed with New York on Aug. 31

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