But the lingering injuries that cost him four starts earlier this season made a surprise reappearance during the Yankees' 10-6 loss to the Angels on Friday, forcing the 33-year-old center fielder out after seven innings and rekindling thoughts of a stint on the disabled list.
"I thought it was all gone," Damon said. "It was a perfect day to be gone, too, because it's super-hot. It just wasn't what I was expecting."
Manager Joe Torre said that Damon will be held out of the lineup for Saturday's matinee against the Angels, citing the quick turnaround, though Damon could be available as a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement. He will be re-evaluated before the game.
Damon said that he started to feel the cramps in the fourth or fifth inning, after he'd had a heavy workload chasing down fly balls for starter Tyler Clippard.
"The legs felt a little shot all day, but around the fourth or fifth inning, [the cramps began]," he said. "I just wanted to go out there and keep going. That definitely wasn't helping the team."
On one notable play, Damon attempted an unsuccessful full-extension dive to corral a second-inning Mike Napoli drive that landed for a two-base hit.
"I'm feeling OK now, but what hurts is not being able to get to the fly balls," he said. "Granted, the balls were hit pretty hard, but I just couldn't get to them. The ball carries a little more on a hot day, but it's frustrating. The damage should not have been as much as it was tonight."
Damon has never spent a day on the disabled list, an achievement he remains proud of, though he has had several close calls this season.
In addition to the recurring pains in his calves -- in both legs, plus tightness in his right Achilles -- Damon has also suffered from back pain that forced him to seek chiropractic realignments on Yankees off-days.
His issues even prompted the Yankees to consider retaining a regular chiropractor to visit the clubhouse during series at Yankee Stadium.
Asked if a stint on the DL was likely for Damon, Torre did not reject the idea outright.
"I don't know what that answer is right now," Torre said. "We were feeling pretty good, because it seemed like he had some good, spry legs there for a while. Then, tonight, [he came up] with the same problem. It's obviously something we're concerned about."
Despite his chronic pains, Damon has been doing his best to try to spark the Yankees, who fell to 21-25 with Friday's loss and are 10 games behind the American League East-leading Red Sox.
Damon is batting .269 with two home runs and 16 RBIs in 40 games this season, and has shown tantalizing glimpses of health, such as in a two-steal, three-hit game against Boston on Monday.
"He's trying," Torre said. "Nobody's saying he's not trying. It's just frustrating for him to have to tell us about [the injuries]."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less