Tuesday before batting practice, Damon said he had decided not to waive his no-trade clause, which only allows him to go to eight teams, not including Boston, the team that claimed him on waivers.
“Initially I thought long and hard about it, but after going around and talking to a bunch of my teammates, they want me here and they feel like we can make a strong push, at least make this Central race interesting,” Damon said. “That’s why I’m going to stay. I’ve said all along I love playing for Detroit, for the city, for the fans.”
President and general manager Dave Dombrowski said he had not initiated any discussions with the Red Sox about a trade because they were waiting to hear Damon’s decision before they even thought about making a deal. Dombrowski said they hadn’t even decided whether they would let Damon go even if he had been willing.
Now it’s all a moot point.
“Technically, at 1:30 tomorrow, we don’t do anything,” Dombrowski said. “He’s officially withdrawn. The waiver’s withdrawn. It’s automatic.
“Before, years ago, you used to go have to go into the system, withdraw the waivers, but that’s changed. Now the only way you go in the system is if you’re going to let him go. So at 1:30 tomorrow, it officially becomes withdrawn. He’s in a position where he cannot be traded.”
Damon will become a free agent at the end of the season and has said he would like to return to the Tigers, but he knows nothing is guaranteed.
“I know going to Boston probably could have helped out my free agency next year but so be it,” Damon said. “I felt like when we started this season, this team was all together in our thought process. We’re going to win and lose together.
“Mathematically we’re still in it. We’ve got to see what kind of fire we have going into the last month.”
Dombrowski said he wouldn’t discuss the possibility of Damon returning next season because the organization doesn’t have those personnel talks until after the season.
Manager Jim Leyland spoke to Damon earlier in the day about his situation.
“I told him, don’t worry about the Red Sox, don’t worry about the Tigers, don’t worry about Jim Leyland, don’t worry about Terry Francona,” Leyland said. “Worry about Johnny Damon and go with what your heart tells you.”
That talk and individual talks with each of his teammates made the decision clear to Damon.
“My heart all along has been with these players here,” Damon said. “I’ve been saying all year long that (Miguel) Cabrera’s the best hitter I’ve ever seen. I want to make sure I see it for a whole year. I want to see Austin Jackson get his Rookie of the Year trophy. I want to see this team keep growing.
“We’ve been playing all right lately and I never like to quit on anything. I’m not going to take the easy road out and say goodbye. I love Detroit, I love the fans and I know I’ve let people know that plenty of times.”
Damon wanted to make sure that the team wasn’t planning to just play young players down the stretch, cutting his playing time too much.
“Yes he’s going to play,” Leyland said. “Every game? No, but he hasn’t played every game up to this point.”
Damon said he wasn’t too concerned about it after speaking with Leyland.
“They do plan on playing me,” Damon said. “How much remains to be seen. If guys get super hot, you have to use the super-hot guys. But even when I’m not hot, I bring something to the table.
“They pitch me differently than most guys. The presence in the lineup is key. I knew this was going to be the decision, but I just wanted to be 100 percent sure that this is the right thing and it is for me.”
Cabrera said that he was happy that Damon decided to stay.
“It’s good for us,” Cabrera said. “He stays here and we can play more together and see what happens. We can do a lot of things. We can win more games. We can get more support in the lineup.”
Although Damon appreciated that former teammates like David Ortiz and Jason Varitek said they would love to have him back, his current teammates wanting him here meant more.
“I would have loved to have gone back and played with Big Papi and Varitek, but that time has come and passed,” Damon said.
Brandon Inge said the Tigers’ odds of making a run at Chicago (5.5 games ahead) and Minnesota (10 games ahead) are a lot better with Damon than without him.
“Obviously, he’s been a huge part of what we’ve been doing this year,” Inge said. “Let’s put it this way, what if we play the same way we’ve been playing right now? Minnesota, they start crashing a little bit, then they start feeling the heat. Then we’ll see.
“Last year they did the same thing to us. They put a stretch of 20-some games in a row that they were dominating. You never can tell.”
The Tigers have seven games remaining against the White Sox and six against the Twins.
“We’re not out yet,” Damon said. “The Twins have a few guys hurt, they just put two pitchers on the DL. Chicago isn’t as hot as they were earlier. At least make a run, try to close the gap a game, sometimes two games a week. There’s always hope and that’s what’s so great about this game.“