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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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