Detroit – Johnny Damon sounds like he’s leaning toward staying in Detroit.
Following Monday night’s 12-3 rout of the tired Kansas City Royals, Damon, who went 2-for-4 with two runs against his original team, spoke again.
The Boston Red Sox claimed the 36-year-old outfielder/designated hitter on waivers but since Damon has a limited no-trade clause and Boston is not one of the eight teams he can be traded to, he has the option of refusing.
“As of now, I’m a Detroit Tiger and I want to keep growing with these guys,” Damon said. “Obviously it’s a tough decision but what’s making it easier on me is all my teammates and my coaches are telling me that they would much rather have me here. So that’s where I’m at right now. Probably still need to talk to Dave (Dombrowski, president, general manager and CEO) and and see if any way it could benefit the team in the future, but what my teammates are telling me is they actually love the fact that I’m here and I’m a great mentor to those guys. So I don’t want to keep everyone in limbo but it’s definitely a tough situation but my teammates are definitely putting me at ease with the situation.”
Damon has not only said all along how much he’s enjoyed playing in Detroit, but that he would like to return next season. He didn’t want to seem like a liar by jumping at the chance to join a team in a better position to make the playoffs.
At the same time, he doesn’t want to stay here and sit on the bench while the Tigers play young kids down the stretch, especially when the Tigers are still mathematically in the Central Division race. With Minnesota’s 4-0 loss to Texas, the Tigers are 10 games back.
“I don’t want to say we’re out of it,” Damon said. “We’ve just put together four straight. It seems like we’re finally swinging the bats very well and it’s the guys at the top, Austin Jackson and Will Rhymes, who are getting our offense going. I don’t see any slowing down. Those guys are hitting tough pitches, having great at-bats. When you’re able to have a deeper lineup and put together great at-bats like that, it makes everything easier. I’ve seen and heard about crazy things in the past.
“My heart tells me right now I’m a Tiger and the fans really showed me their love tonight. Yeah, it’s been a tough year for me with runners in scoring position. But they know I go out there and compete and battle and the fans want me here and the players want me here, so that’s kind of where I’m leaning towards right now.”
Damon was not unmoved by his former teammates’ joy at the thought of having him back in Boston.
“He’s a special player,” Jason Varitek told the Boston Globe. “He’s pushing Hall of Fame-type numbers. And you add that Johnny’s great in the clubhouse, he’s a gamer on the field and one hell of a teammate. It would be a nice opportunity. But we’ll let him do what he needs to do to see what happens. Johnny knows we love him and always have.”
It’s apparent that while Damon still loves his former teammates and manager Terry Francona, he’s still stung by team management and the way the fans booed him when he came back in a Yankees uniform.
“I loved being a part of Boston from ’02 to ’05 and then after that, I got rid of all my Boston stuff and just erased that chapter,” Damon said. “I tried to stay there and let them know what was going on with the Yankees and they thought I was lying about that. That’s where I turned, became and Yankee and enjoyed that moment of being a Yankee and winning with the Yankees last year. This is a tougher decision than when I left Boston to go to the Yankees. For the past four and a half, five years, I haven’t had strong feelings for that team.”
Damon does have strong feelings for his new home but he still has a few things to consider before making his final decision, which has to happen Wednesday afternoon.
“My gut, everything’s telling me Detroit’s the place for me,” Damon said.
We’ll soon know if Detroit will be the place for Damon the rest of the year.