Damon homers in reunion with Yankees

Damon homers in reunion with Yankees

DETROIT -- There have been days when Johnny Damon wandered around with his new Tigers teammates, proudly showing off the World Series rings earned with the 2004 Red Sox and the '09 Yankees, side by side.

Someone would inevitably ask Damon why he would wear the diamond-encrusted logos of both of those American League East blood rivals at the same time. And the response came back with Damon's soft-spoken charm: "Well, there's not that many people that can do it."

Damon had largely turned the page on his four seasons in Yankees pinstripes as he prepared to meet and greet his old teammates this week at Comerica Park, with the amiable veteran hoping to spend plenty of time chatting up the infielders on the bases.

After rolling down the Canyon of Heroes in New York upon securing a World Series triumph he helped finalize with a daring and memorable dash on the basepaths during Game 4 in Philadelphia, Damon was ultimately cast aside by the Yankees.

Damon knew there was little interest in a renewal at the completion of his four-year, $52 million contract, as the Yankees traded for a younger outfielder in Curtis Granderson and eventually signed Nick Johnson to assume their No. 2 spot in the order, believing his high on-base percentage would represent an upgrade.

Damon entered play on Monday hitting .294 with one home run and 14 RBIs, while both Granderson and Johnson were absent from Comerica Park, assigned to the disabled list with groin and wrist injuries, respectively. Damon added to his offensive totals in the fifth inning of Monday's 5-4 Tigers win, hitting a solo homer off Sergio Mitre.

Before signing with Detroit, there was hope of re-signing with the Yankees. At the urging of a few Yanks, including Alex Rodriguez, Damon eventually did call Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and co-chairman Hal Steinbrenner, just making sure there was not a deal to be made. Ultimately, there was not, and Damon says that -- with the Tigers -- he is where he wants to be.

"During the offseason, speculation was that it was dead with New York, so I just never bothered with it until the very end," Damon said.

"Like I've said before, this is the fifth team that I've been on. I'm able to turn the page quickly. Our job is to go out there and play well and beat them. That's the bottom line. Hopefully we can do that."

Before the series opener, Yankees manager Joe Girardi was in no mood to lament what might have been, but he acknowledged that Damon could have slipped across the way and re-assimilated just fine into his old clubhouse.

"Johnny would fit on probably 30 clubs," Girardi said. "There's a lot of other guys who would fit on 30 clubs, too. It's just the nature of the business. There's going to be changes every year, and clubs don't stand pat."

Damon said that he had asked Cashman to have his World Series ring shipped to the Tigers in April, not wanting to wait until August, when Detroit finally visits Yankee Stadium for the first time. There are also no guarantees that Damon will even be in New York for that Aug. 16-19 series.

"Hopefully we're still in contention here, because if not, there's a good chance I won't even make that trip there," Damon said.

Damon is speaking about the possibility of being dealt by the Tigers, something that the left fielder mentioned during Spring Training as well. Damon said that he can't help but keep an eye on the Yankees, but he said it's much too soon to start thinking about a reunion -- something he wouldn't rule out, even after his deal with Detroit was signed.

"Not yet, because we are in the thick of things and we haven't played good yet," Damon said. "We're waiting for that day when we start getting solid pitching top to bottom.

"Our bullpen is, I feel, the best out there. Our offense has been up and down. The defense has been shady. We haven't played that great, and we're still looking better than most teams out there."

Even if a pinstriped continuation doesn't transpire, Damon said that he feels comfortable closing the chapter of his career that took place in New York, since it resulted in the ultimate prize.

"I know forever I'll be linked with the 27th championship," Damon said. "I don't have to wake up on a certain day and say, 'Man, we were close, and it never happened for me there.'"

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.