The 38-year-old outfielder confirmed a minor league contract, the next step before he joins the big league club and possibly moves into a permanent place in left field. The sides agreed on a $1.25 million deal last week, when the Indians were off to a slow start with a team batting average below .200. 5-cent overnight money line
However, General Manager Chris Antonetti claimed he had been in talks with Damon and his agent Scott Boras long before the Indians opened 1-4. The Indians believe Damon, entering his 17th season and with an impressive resume of postseason encounter, can maintain them keep climbing in the standings. 10 cent football line
“We still believe he’s got some quality baseball in him,” Antonetti declared.
Damon, who can earn another $1.4 million in presentation bonuses based primarily on plate show, is worked up about joining the Indians — his 7th American League team. He’ll be brought together with former colleagues Shelley Duncan, Derek Lowe and Casey Kotchman.
“They’re a team that is building for the future, but they have also got an opportunity to win now,” Damon related. “That’s a good thing to have. They locked up one or two players and I know they could be working on a few more, potentially. It’s that right mix. A team that’s as young as they are, and adding a player like Derek Lowe in the offseason, and now adding a man like me, hopefully we will be able to give them a lift and some knowledge.”
Damon is at the team’s all year training complex in Goodyear, Ariz, getting game ready after not being in a spring camp for the 1st time since he was picked in the 1st round by Kansas City in 1995. Damon, who needs 277 hits to reach 3,000 in his career, will probably spend some time with Triple-A Columbus before joining the Indians.
When he’s brought up, Damon will probably take over in left field for Duncan, a part-time player in the past who has been beginning this season. Duncan was needed in left because the Indians had to carry out an outfield shift, moving Michael Brantley over to center with Grady Sizemore on the disabled list following back surgical treatment.
Once Sizemore come back, Antonetti claimed it’s feasible the Indians may carry five outfielders — Damon, Brantley, Duncan, Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo — the rest of this season.
A career .286 hitter, Damon also brings the Indians leadership and playoff knowledge. As Antonetti announced, Damon is “universally respected” and can serve as a mentor to some of Cleveland’s younger players. But the Indians believe his largest impact will be between the lines regardless of approaching 40, when most major leaguers have retired.
Last season, Damon batted .261 with 29 doubles, 7 triples, 16 homers, 73 RBIs and 19 takes in 150 games for the Tampa Bay Rays. It was actually the 16th successive season Damon has played at least 140 games, an accomplishment he shares with only Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson and Pete Rose.
Damon has appeared in 59 postseason games for the Rays, Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.