Three of the Yankees' best four prospects got invitations to the major-league camp for spring training. But the outfielder that some believe is the club's next star center fielder in a few years wasn't one of them.
But Mason Williams understands. Ranked first among Yankee prospects by Baseball America, Williams is coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, which he suffered making a diving catch while playing for High Class A Tampa last season.
"Actually, I wasn't even looking forward to going, because I was coming off rehab," Williams said last week after a workout at the Yanks' minor-league complex. "The Yankees are the best at what they do and they're not into rushing anybody. It didn't make sense. I'll be ready for opening day; that's all that matters."
Williams has about another two weeks until he is cleared for full practice. He has not yet hit on the field, he says, though he has been participating in all fielding drills.
With Hal Steinbrenner stressing that the development of young players is key to the Yankees' controlling their payroll in the coming years, a lot is expected of players such as Williams and other well thought of prospects such as Tyler Austin, Gary Sanchez and Slade Heathcott.
Williams, who probably will start the season playing for Tampa again, says he's aware of the Yanks' fiscal plan, but notes, "I still have to perform. That has nothing to do with me. I just have to do what I can."
He believes he can improve on what was a solid 2012 before the injury. The 21-year-old Williams batted .298 with a .346 on-base percentage and a .474 slugging percentage in 91 games over stops at low-A Charleston and Tampa. He added 11 home runs and 20 stolen bases and is a talented defensive player.
"This is going to be my best year, honestly, I feel like," Williams said. "I gained weight coming back from this. I feel stronger and definitely mentally stronger, too."

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