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12/23/08 1:33 PM EST

Williams makes debut in winter ball

Former Yankees All-Star begins comeback in Puerto Rico

Bernie Williams never officially announced his retirement from baseball, but he officially began his comeback on Monday.

Williams went 1-for-3 in his debut for Carolina, helping the Gigantes to a 4-1 win over Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican Winter League. The five-time All-Star batted second as the designated hitter in his first game since 2006.

The 40-year-old switch-hitter hit a line drive single up the middle in his first at-bat in the first inning off Mayaguez starter Jerome Williams, a right-hander who played in the Phillies and Dodgers system in 2008. Williams struck out swinging to end the third and grounded out to leadoff the fifth before being pulled for a pinch-hitter in the seventh.

Williams' comeback is the first step in his plan to play for Puerto Rico in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The popular center fielder hopes to make the team as a DH or backup outfielder. It's his first stint in winter ball since 1996.

The San Juan, Puerto Rico native won four Gold Gloves in 16 seasons with the Yankees, compiling a .297 average with 287 homers as a key member of the Bombers' four World Series titles from 1996-2000. He became a free agent in 2006 and, while never officially retiring, has not played since.

He hit .281 with 12 homers and 61 RBIs in his final summer with the Yankees two years ago. Former teammate and current Yankees catcher Jorge Posada is also on the Carolina roster but has not appeared in any games this winter.

Williams appeared in uniform at Yankee Stadium for a pre-game ceremony before the Yankees' final home game in September, three months before he announced his comeback plans. He's concentrated on his music career since leaving the Yankees in 2006 and is set to release his second album in April.

Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.