August 16th, 2010

Valverde hopefully available tonight

The Tigers were optimistic that they would have Jose Valverde available Monday night against the Yankees, if they could get a save situation for him.

“We’re hoping he’s going to be OK,” manager Jim Leyland said Monday afternoon. “We got a pretty good report today.”

Valverde missed the entire weekend series against the White Sox with a deep abdominal strain on his right side. He said Monday afternoon he felt a lot better, though he couldn’t say for sure if he would be ready until he went out to play catch.

“I want to be ready to play,” Valverde said.

Phil Coke closed out back-to-back wins Saturday and Sunday in Valverde’s absence. Leyland said Coke would “hopefully” be available Monday as well. It would mean potentially three straight days of work, but Leyland pointed out that his pitch count Sunday was relatively low.

Heavy bullpen use over the weekend and Valverde’s situation prompted Detroit to call up Daniel Schlereth from Triple-A Toledo as an extra reliever. 

Damon hopes to stay with Tigers next year

Johnny Damon was in the Yankee Stadium interview room talking with New York reporters about his return to the Bronx for the first time he and the Bronx Bombers parted ways last winter. He ended up saying quite a bit about his future with the Tigers.

Damon reiterated that next year might be his final season before retiring. He said he would very much like it to be with the Tigers. Considering the ups and downs of this season, it was an interesting statement.

“I’m hoping to stay. I’m hoping after this season they want me back to, I feel, be a part of something special. I think that’s a big reason why I chose Detroit, because I felt like there was something happening there with a winning ballclub. A championship would mean the world to the fans there, to that economy, to the owner. That’s why I felt was, and is, the best place for me right now.”

Damon is eligible for free agency this winter, and there has been some speculation whether he would end the season as a Tiger. Detroit could conceivably try to pass him through waivers in order to set up an August trade, though indications are that the Tigers haven’t put him on waivers yet.

Damon signed a one-year, $8 million contract in February after winning a World Series with the Yankees, who briefly had talks on Damon before moving on to other options. His addition was expected to be one of the big pieces towards reigniting a dormant offense. He has had an up-and-down season at the plate, batting .278 with 30 doubles, seven home runs, 38 RBIs and 65 runs scored, but he hit a clutch two-run triple Sunday to help fuel Detroit’s comeback win over the White Sox.

“My experience in Detroit has been great,” Damon said. “I love it there. I feel like the team is an up-and-coming team with a lot of young kids there that definitely need guidance to show them the hopes, and it seems like they’ve been doing a pretty good job at it.”

The Tigers have an interesting offseason on their hands, especially with they do with their outfield. Magglio Ordonez’s ankle fracture all but ensures his contract option for 2011 won’t vest, making it the Tigers’ decision whether to pick it up for $15 million or buy it out for no cost. Austin Jackson is a huge part of the Tigers’ future in center field and at leadoff, and Brennan Boesch is an everyday outfielder now.

“This is a new process for me. I’m almost a player-coach,” Damon said. “I’m around all the young kids who are almost young enough to be my sons, but it’s great. It puts that fire back into you. You enjoy watch these guys grow up. I’m enjoying watching the best hitter in baseball in [Miguel] Cabrera. I’m enjoying watching the best defensive center fielder in the game. That’s the stuff you enjoy and you remember for a very long time.”

Damon has been a DH more days than an outfielder. Detroit will most likely look at an impact bat or two this winter, whether on the free-agent market or through trades.

That said, the Tigers don’t have an obvious No. 2 hitter on their club as is, aside from Damon.

Damon said he knows an August trade is a possibility. Even if it comes to fruition, though, he would like to be in Detroit next year.

“If that does happen, they know that I would be very interested in coming back next year,” Damon said. “I feel like my job’s not complete in Detroit until we get them back to the playoffs to make all the fans happy.”

Judging from Damon’s career plans, it would not take a multi-year deal to bring the 36-year-old back if they want him.