February 22nd, 2010

Leyland the recruiter? Well, sort of

The White Sox had A.J. Pierzynski and Hawk Harrelson to give their pitch to Johnny Damon on the golf course. The Tigers had manager Jim Leyland … sort of.

It wasn’t a recruiting pitch on the phone, but it was Leyland who had what was believed to be the one bit of direct contact between Damon and the Tigers. It was 15-minute phone call late last week at the suggestion of Dave Dombrowski and Scott Boras, and it was a simple conversation about how Leyland saw Damon fitting on the club.

“I don’t think in any way, shape or form I had a factor in his decision,” Leyland said Monday morning. “But we had a very honest conversation.”

At the end of the conversation, Leyland said he told Damon that he had to do what’s best for him. That ended up being the Tigers, but Leyland isn’t going anywhere near the credit for the signing.

“I ‘d have to say that Mr. Ilitch was quite a bit more influential to Johnny Damon than Jim Leyland was,” Leyland said.