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Johnny Damon expresses second thoughts about vetoing Red Sox deal

03.10.11 at 1:22 pm ET
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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — In retrospect, Johnny Damon admitted, maybe he should have gone back to Boston when the Red Sox were awarded a waiver claim on the outfielder last August.

Damon — now with the Rays, with whom he signed a one-year, $5.25 million deal this winter — suggested that his decision to exercise his no-trade power to block a move to Boston was a result of his expectation that it was a “slam dunk” that the Tigers would want to bring him back beyond the 2010 season. Instead, the 37-year-old said that he found out on the last day of the season that Detroit did not plan to make an effort to retain him, thus leaving Damon — who played for the Sox from 2002-05 — to wonder whether he should have returned to Boston.

“I enjoyed playing in Detroit, and actually was hoping to get back there. That was a big reason for vetoing the trade. If I would have known at the time that they weren’€™t going to bring me back, I would have showcased myself for the upcoming free agent year,” said Damon, who signed a one-year, $5.25 million deal with the Rays this winter. “[The Tigers] didn’€™t give me any indication. The ownership loved me. The fans loved me. So I thought it was close to being a slam dunk [that he would return]. But find out on the last day of the season. Okay, appreciate it…

“My whole thing was I wanted to stay in Detroit. I wanted to try to get another year with them. Things didn’€™t work out that way,” he added. “And now I’€™m here in a place where I’€™ve always wanted to be.”

Damon remains a dear figure to his former manager, Terry Francona, who found his ability to stay on the field for 149 games a year while throwing his body all over the field to be somewhat remarkable.

“[Damon is] one of my all-time favorites. One of the best guys you could ever have play as a manager. You can’€™t appreciate him too much,” said Francona. “There were days where he just got beat to [smithereens] and he’€™d call in the morning and go, ‘€˜Don’€™t not play me. Let me have a chance to show up.’€™ He understood his obligation. He’€™d go out and play center field, even if he went 0-for-4, he’€™d lead off and play. I was impressed with him. He’€™s very dear to me. We loved him. And I know he went to the Yankees and he got booed when he came. Everybody that’€™s been around him appreciates what he’€™s done.”

“I wish he’€™d go somewhere else,” Francona added. “But that doesn’€™t mean he’€™s not dear to us. We love him. I just don’€™t want him to help these guys too much. Same with [Manny Ramirez].”

Damon is serving as the designated hitter and batting second for the Rays. Ramirez was slated to play left field for Tampa Bay, but was a late scratch out of concern about the wet outfield following heavy rains earlier today in Southwest Florida.

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