Damon welcomed back to Bronx

Damon welcomed back to Bronx

NEW YORK -- Sporting a freshly styled Mohawk, Johnny Damon talked about how weird it was to be back in the Bronx in a visitor's uniform.

"It's weird coming back. It's just strange not seeing the old Yankee Stadium," Damon said. "All I have are great memories of this place."

Damon played his first game in the Bronx as a visitor since signing with the Tigers after spending four seasons with the Yankees. In the lineup hitting second and playing designated hitter, Damon received a standing ovation before his first at-bat and doffed his helmet to the Yankees' faithful.

"I think they really appreciate what I brought to the Yankees and what we were able to do as a team last year," said Damon, adding that he wears his Yankees' World Series ring every day.

"I think they'll be very applauding," manager Joe Girardi said before the game. "There's a lot of fondness there between the two sides."

Damon thinks that his offseason signing with Detroit "worked out the best for everybody," even as the Tigers have fallen out of the race in the American League Central. The veteran is enjoying a different role as a mentor to some younger players, including former Yankees farmhand Austin Jackson.

"The Yankees thought they were getting better without me. Are they better? Well, they look pretty good right now," Damon said. "I think all of them knew I could still play, but it would have had to be only on their terms. ... I value myself more than the New York front office valued me."

Girardi said the team does miss Damon's presence in the clubhouse.

"Johnny was great to be around and fun to be around," Girardi said. "Johnny was a free spirit, was a productive player for us. People move on, and that's a tough part of the game."

Before the game, Damon spent a lot of time with his former mates as the Yankees took batting practice. Robinson Cano, a member of what Damon thinks may be the "greatest infield ever," even snuck up behind the 36-year-old and picked him up in a hug.

Damon, for one, said he still checks up on his old team.

"If we don't make [the playoffs], obviously I'm going to hope these guys do well," Damon said. "There's no hard feelings."