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Damon: Gut says stay with the Tigers

08.23.10 at 10:50 pm ET
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Johnny Damon told reporters in Detroit following his team’s 12-3 victory over the Royals that he is still leaning towards exercising his right to veto a deal that would send him to the Red Sox.

“My gut and everything else tells me Detroit’s the place for me,” Damon told reporters, though he did allow that he might rethink that stance if he was told by the Tigers that they wanted to play younger players.

Still, Damon made clear that after talking with his Tigers teammates, who told him that they want him to stay with their club, that he is “definitely leaning” towards staying. The outfielder said that he wanted to hear from Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski about what might be in the long-term interest of Detroit. If he can help to mentor young Tigers players, then he would welcome the opportunity to do so. But, Damon said, if Detroit felt that his presence might be an impediment to playing time for prospects who need time in major league games, that could factor into his decision.

The Sox were awarded a waiver claim on the 37-year-old on Monday. According to the outfielder, the Tigers, Red Sox and Damon have until 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday to decide whether a) Detroit will let Damon go to the Sox, either simply letting the Sox take him on waivers or by working out a deal and b) Damon will accept a deal that would send him back to Boston.

Damon suggested that the possibility of playing again for the Sox had some intrigue, given the team’s place in the standings and the upcoming string of games against AL East opponents.

“Obviously they claimed me to go out there and play left field and lead off for them. They have a lot of big games with Tampa Bay coming up. They have six more games with New York coming up. That’s why they’re trying,” Damon told reporters. “What a scene that would be, playing for the Red Sox while the Yankees go there, and everybody there hates me. That’s the craziness that’s involved. I’m just going to try not to think about it tonight.”

Damon played with the Red Sox from 2002-05, and recalls his time in Boston fondly. Yet he also suggested that his fond memories of playing with the Red Sox were tempered by both the changes to the team following the 2004 season and the acrimony surrounding his departure.

“What we had in Boston — I stress had, from 2002 to 2005 — we had a special bunch of guys. And after the 2004 season, guys started leaving, the [Pedro Martinezes] and Derek Lowes. And in 2005, how Mark Bellhorn left, how Alan Embree left, how Kevin Millar was being treated there. That’s something that sticks with you. It was a totally new team,” said Damon. “I know they have a very good team, possibly the best rotation around. They inched a game closer today.

“Varitek knows what I brought to the table night in and night out. Ortiz does. And Wakefield. So obviously I know they want me. But I love it here in Detroit, and I love my teammates here. I hope this can work out to something that I can be back here in Detroit. I’m kind of weighing all my options, seeing if I could help improve this team for next year. That’s ultimately what I want is to grow together with the Tigers and help develop their young Tigers and see where it takes us.”

Damon went 2-for-4 as Detroit’s DH on Monday and is now hitting .272 with a .768 OPS for the year.

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