— Johnny Damon’s chance to join an exclusive group was postponed when the Detroit Tigers’ game didn’t even get started because of rain Tuesday night.
A steady drizzle kept the field covered and forced the Tigers into a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday, scheduled to start at 4:05 p.m.
Damon is one game shy of becoming the fifth player to play in 140 or more games for 15 straight seasons. Willie Mays did it 15 times and Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson and Pete Rose 16 apiece.
All-time ironmen Cal Ripken Jr., and Lou Gehrig are not on the list.
Ripken, who played in a record 2,632 consecutive games over 17 years for Baltimore, had his streak interrupted by the strike of 1994. That limited him to 112 games. Gehrig played in 2,130 straight games before taking himself out of the lineup in 1939, after 13 straight seasons of 140 or more games.
“He loves to play,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of the 36-year-old Damon. “If it was a pickup game Saturday morning, he’d be the first one there.”
Leyland and Indians manager Manny Acta both kept their pitching rotations in order. Detroit’s Max Scherzer will face Mitch Talbot in the first game. Justin Verlander will go for his 19th win for the Tigers in the regularly scheduled game against Cleveland rookie Josh Tomlin.
Detroit most likely will be without slugger Miguel Cabrera, who sprained his right ankle Monday night. Cabrera was on crutches Tuesday.
Damon was in Leyland’s lineup Tuesday, batting third as the designated hitter. He expects to play Wednesday.
“I love the game,” said the outfielder, whose streak began with his second season for the Kansas City Royals in 1996. He played 140 or more games five times for the Royals, once for Oakland, four years apiece for Boston and the New York Yankees before joining the Tigers this year.
“I just love taking the field, playing the game,” Damon said. “I guess there haven’t been too many guys who have enjoyed doing that as much as I do.”
Damon has played in 2,270 games, has been on the disabled list only once, as a rookie in 1995, and barely made it with 141 games in 2007 and 143 in the next two seasons.
He was sidelined for 16 days in 2008 when it looked as if he would be lost for more than a month.
“I crashed into the wall making a catch, threw the ball into the infield and hurt my shoulder,” Damon said. “They told me I would be out 4 to 6 weeks. I told them 10 days. We were both wrong, but I was closer.”
Damon attributes his endurance to going all-out rather than being tentative.
“I think you have a better chance of getting hurt when you go easy on a play sometimes,” he said.