Bernie Williams rejected the New York Yankees' offer of a minor league contract and will wait to see if a guaranteed job opens up for him on the team.

Yankees Manager Joe Torre spoke with Williams last week and tried to reach him, without success, on Sunday.

"Bernie told me he had talked with Joe. Other than the invite, there wasn't any information that led him to believe he would be a member of the team," Williams's agent, Scott Boras, said yesterday. "He's continuing to work out, will wait to see if their position changes."

Williams, 38, signed with the Yankees in 1985 and made his major league debut in 1991. Torre had hoped the outfielder would be on the field as position players started workouts yesterday.

"Evidently, what I've said to him hasn't been enough for him," Torre said. "I know he was down when I talked to him." . . .

One day after Alex Rodriguez acknowledged the pair no longer are best friends, Derek Jeter responded.

"I don't have a rift with Alex," Jeter said. "We go out there. We work together. This is our fourth year to be playing together. It's annoying to hear about it all the time. Everyone assumes they know what our relationship is. Everyone assumes -- they see us on the field, if one person gives another one a look, it's a story. If we're at opposite ends of the bench, people say it's a story."

· CUBS:RHP Carlos Zambrano agreed to a one-year, $12.4 million contract, avoiding salary arbitration by striking the deal just before his scheduled hearing.

Zambrano earned $6.5 million last season while going 16-7 with a 3.41 ERA and 210 strikeouts. He asked for $15.5 million in arbitration, and the Cubs countered at $11,025,000 -- more than any player had been awarded.

· DODGERS:Derek Lowe has been picked to start on Opening Day for the third straight year. Manager Grady Little said that the right-hander, 16-8 with a 3.63 ERA last season, will pitch the opener in Milwaukee on April 2.

· REDS:Former pitcher and broadcaster Joe Nuxhall, 78, was released from a hospital and began treatment for a recurrence of cancer. Nuxhall had surgery for prostate cancer in February 1992, but a recent examination at Sarasota (Fla.) Memorial Hospital found that cancer had returned.

· MARINERS:Sean Burroughs's comeback attempt as a non-roster invitee to Seattle's camp has been delayed because of a fishing accident.

Burroughs, 26, slipped and fell while fishing in San Diego last week. An MRI exam revealed a sprained AC joint and separation in his right shoulder. The third baseman is scheduled to remain in San Diego through the end of the month, then be reexamined. . . .

RHP Mark Lowe, 23, will have another MRI exam next week to determine when he can start throwing following elbow surgery in October. Lowe, who the Mariners had hoped would be the setup man for closer J.J. Putz, pitched a team-record 17 2/3 scoreless innings last summer to begin his major league career.

· BLUE JAYS:Manager John Gibbons agreed to a one-year, $650,000 contract extension.