Results tagged ‘ Johnny Damon ’
As expected, Ryan Raburn is in right field today, with Magglio Ordonez at DH. Raburn is batting second today in place of Johnny Damon, who gets the night off.
That was expected. What wasn’t expected was that Gerald Laird was iffy for today with back soreness. That was the reason Jim Leyland took him out of last night’s game for the late innings. It wasn’t just a matter of resting some regulars in a game that was out of hand. However, Laird said today he feels good enough to play, so he gets the start behind the plate. Laird and Sizemore flip in the batting order, though. Alex Avila will start Sunday with Max Scherzer on the mound.
- Jackson, CF
- Raburn, RF
- Ordonez, DH
- Cabrera, 1B
- Guillen, LF
- Inge, 3B
- Sizemore, 2B
- Laird, C
- Everett, SS
P: Justin Verlander
- Ichiro Suzuki, RF
- Chone Figgins, 2B
- Franklin Gutierrez, CF
- Jose Lopez, 3B
- Ken Griffey Jr., DH
- Milton Bradley, LF
- Casey Kotchman, 1B
- Adam Moore, C
- Jack Wilson, SS
P: Ryan Rowland-Smith
As expected, Austin Jackson has the day off, his first such day this season. Jim Leyland said he went with Ryan Raburn to lead off over Johnny Damon because he didn’t want to stack Raburn, Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera back to back to back, right-handed hitters all. Damon breaks up that stretch in the second spot.
- Raburn, CF
- Damon, LF
- Ordonez, RF
- Cabrera, 1B
- Guillen, DH
- Inge, 3B
- Laird, C
- Sizemore, 2B
- Everett, SS
- David DeJesus, RF
- Scott Podsednik, LF
- Billy Butler, 1B
- Jose Guillen, DH
- Alberto Callaspo, 3B
- Mitch Maier, CF
- Jason Kendall, C
- Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
- Chris Getz, 2B
I talked about this in my game story on the Tigers site, but I figured the question’s going to come up: If Johnny Damon was going to pinch-hit in the ninth inning, why not have him hit for Ramon Santiago rather than Gerald Laird?
I asked Jim Leyland about it after the game. If Damon bats in Santiago’s place and draws a walk, it loads the bases for Gerald Laird with Alex Avila and Adam Everett as the remaining two hitters on the bench. And there was a good reason to lean against sending up Avila in that situation.
“I wanted a veteran guy up there,” Leyland said. “That’s why I hit Damon
[for Laird] instead of Avila. I just thought the veteran guy would take
closer pitches for balls. I felt comfortable with Santi. If I hit
Damon [for him], they might walk him, and then I hit Avila for Laird.”
I think it says a lot of what Leyland thinks of Santiago as a hitter, and with good reason. He’s 30 years old now with more than 1,400 Major League plate appearances under his belt.
It’s a day for reunions here in Lakeland with Curtis Granderson and Johnny Damon against their old clubs. For that matter, it’s also Austin Jackson against his old club. But Damon is not in the starting lineup. He has turf toe in his left big toe, which he said he got from working out at home, but supposedly it’s nothing serious. Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Damon received treatment and was much improved, but they wanted to sit him as a precaution. They didn’t want him trying to compensate for the injury and then tweaking something else.
“If it was regular season, I’d be in there,” Damon said. “But it’s not, so …”
Damon is listed on the travel roster going to Clearwater for Thursday’s game against the Phillies, so we’ll see if it’s a lingering concern.
Magglio Ordonez is also out of the lineup. He had a muscle tweak behind his left knee that he suffered in the outfield yesterday against the Nationals. Like Damon, Magglio said he’d be playing if it was regular season.
You’ll also note that Scott Sizemore is back in the lineup after being scratched yesterday in Viera with a sore ankle. Also notable is Jeff Larish’s start at third base.
- Jackson, CF
- Raburn, RF
- Strieby, 1B
- Cabrera, DH
- Guillen, LF
- Laird, C
- Larish, 3B
- Sizemore, 2B
- Everett, SS
Dontrelle Willis is no Lane Kiffin. Or John Calipari. Or whichever college coach you want to use as an example.
Point is, though Johnny Damon mentioned calling his friend Willis for his take on the Tigers and how Damon would received, right before Damon agreed to terms on his one-year contract, Willis isn’t taking credit, especially since Damon called him, not the other way around.
“I don’t recruit,” Willis said. “We’re just good friends. Our wives are good friends. He just asked me how the organization was. I just gave him my honest opinion, especially in my situation, where I haven’t played well for the organization. I still spoke highly about the guys in the clubhouse, guys in the training room, the coaching staff and the front office, because that’s how I really feel. That was just friend to friend.
“I’m sure it was a hard decision for him. He had so many teams bidding for him, and I wished him all the best, regardless of what he did. I guess my words spoke volumes for him. He called me back within an hour and said he’d see me this spring. I really appreciate that he took my words to heart, because they were heartfelt. I was just being totally honest about everybody. … It wasn’t really the conversation that everybody thought it was.”
Still, he has given opinions about organizations before, including when he was with the Marlins.
“As goofy as I am, I do have an attention to detail,” he said. “I’ve always been somebody who tries to pay attention as best as I can and watch my surroundings, and I have a good idea of personalities.”
Said Willis: “I told Johnny, ‘I haven’t been playing well, and they still treat me with a lot of respect, from top to bottom.’”
What began as a drizzly morning here in Lakeland ended up a sun-soaked and warm afternoon, probably the first real sunscreen type of day since spring training began. Very good day for the Tigers to have their first full-squad workout, and manager Jim Leyland’s mood reflected it.
After one full-squad workout — and probably more important, one day of batting practice — Leyland was raving about the prospects the Tigers have coming up in the system.
“I can tell, we’ve got a lot of talent in this camp, down low [in the system] and up high. I mean, it was an eye-opener out there today.”
- “There’s a lot of prospects, probably the most prospects I’ve ever had in a camp.”
- “I can assure you that these guys will be in Detroit someday, a lot of them. I don’t know where I’ll be [at that time], but they will be.”
- “There’s guys hitting balls over trees, way over trees. … When you have veterans doing double-takes to watch a kid hit, that’s usually a pretty good measuring stick.”
Leyland didn’t want to mention prospects by name when he was talking about this, but one can surmise that he was talking about, Ryan Strieby, Brennan Boesch and Casper Wells, among others. Wells reported to camp in noticeably strong shape after spending most of the winter working out with Strieby in Arizona at the API training facility. He almost looks like he’s got a linebacker’s build playing outfield.
What does this mean for Detroit? For now, probably nothing. Unless Wells makes a run and takes the CF job from Austin Jackson in camp, most of the hitting talent will be opening in Toledo, which has the chance for a really nice offense if you add in a healthy Jeff Larish and maybe Alex Avila. But keep it in mind as the summer unwinds and the Tigers get closer to next offseason, when Dombrowski suggested the Tigers will make more “adjustments.”
Anyway, on to some notes …
- Speaking of youngsters, Scott Sizemore did everything that every other infielder did on the first formal workout for position players. He’s still coming along with the ankle, but it isn’t limiting what he can do. No definitive word yet over whether he’ll be able to start at second when games begin in a week, but it’s looking upbeat. “He needs to get at-bats,” Leyland said. “He needs to play second base this spring a lot.”
- The Tigers designated Casey Fien for assignment to make room for Johnny Damon on the 40-man roster, but Fien isn’t leaving camp just yet. He’s just going across the street. Though he’s technically in limbo until he’s either claimed on waivers, traded or outrighted, he can work out at the Tigers’ minor league facility across the street. The team has invited and encouraged him to do so.
- In addition to talking with Carlos Guillen about his role, Leyland said he talked with Johnny Damon about his situation and whether he feels more comfortable batting leadoff or hitting second. Damon said he’s fine either way, but that they involve two different approaches. He doesn’t hit for as high of an average or reach base to the same percentage hitting second compared to leadoff, but he can do some other things in his game.
- Leyland didn’t really want to talk about Ryan Raburn’s situation this morning after just discussing Guillen, but he said in the afternoon that Raburn will work out in the infield as well as the outfield now that full-squad workouts are underway. That’s a change from the offseason, when Leyland said he wanted Raburn to focus on being an outfielder. Raburn and Don Kelly are probably going to see work at basically every position but shortstop, catcher and pitcher this spring.
- Strieby, by the way, is going to see time at both 1B and OF this spring. He’ll most likely be an outfielder in Toledo as he tries to make the transition away from Miguel Cabrera’s position and into a spot where he could actually see some playing time in Detroit.
On one hand, if you believe Johnny Damon’s statements that Detroit is where he wanted to play all along once he knew he wasn’t heading back to the Yankees, then he shouldn’t have needed much recruiting from Dontrelle Willis. On the other hand, he did call Dontrelle Willis.
Yes, Dontrelle Willis became a recruiter for Damon, even if he didn’t intend to be.
Willis and Damon know each other from Team USA at the 2006 World Baseball Classic. He wasn’t the only player Damon knew on the Tigers; he knows Phil Coke from the Yankees last year, but Coke didn’t have his phone number.
So he called Willis. Damon wanted to ask someone on the club how players and fans would react to his arrival.
“After I got off the phone with him, I was like, ‘This is going to work,’” Damon said. “And we’re expecting bigger things from him. He’s obviously going to battle to get back to form. And even he said, ‘This is a great place to play, you’re going to enjoy it.’ Said all the right things to me, and I was like, ‘Wow.’
“Scott [Boras] called me about two minutes after that and asked if we were good to go. And I said, ‘Absolutely.’”
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.
The Tigers haven’t officially announced their one-year contract with Johnny Damon yet, but others around baseball have their first impressions nonetheless, including within the Tigers clubhouse.
We already knew Phil Coke and Austin Jackson thought a lot of Damon, their former teammate in New York and new teammate in Detroit. But so is Magglio Ordonez, who has never played on the same team as Damon but will probably hit behind him.
“It’s huge for this team,” Ordonez said. “We need him batting first or second. Right now we don’t have a leadoff hitter. I think he’s going to be a big help.”
Ordonez is probably going to like anybody who can get on base and move runners in front of him. Though he batted .291 with runners in scoring position last year, he drove in just 50 runs, He had fewer runners in scoring position during his at-bats than the average Major League player, according to baseball-reference.com. It’s the first time that has happened to him since 2006.
More reactions from outside the Tigers clubhouse, courtesy of MLB.com reporters Bryan Hoch, Dick Kaegel and Scott Merkin:
Yankees manager Joe Girardi: “I’m happy for him that he found out where he’s going to go. For players, that’s an anxious time, trying to figure out where you’re going to be. Usually it doesn’t go on this long. I wish Johnny luck. Johnny was good for us here. We all miss Johnny. This is the hard part of the game. I’ll root for Johnny, except when he’s playing against us.”
Royals manager Trey Hillman: “Arguably he had one of his best years ever last year. Some people are going to argue that it was the ballpark (new Yankee Stadium) that he was playing in (or) his comfort level and the support cast that was around him playing for the Yankees. Even with Johnny being a veteran at the age he’s at, I wouldn’t discount anything that he brings to that team in a bigger ballpark. He’s a guy that’s been making adjustments his whole career. He’s needs to flatten that swing out a little bit and hit more line drives instead of those fly balls over that short porch in Yankee Stadium. He’ll make the adjustment. That’s the way we’ll approach him – another dangerous tool for Jim Leyland in that lineup.”
White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy: “I wanted him on my team. Johnny Damon is a winner. Johnny
going to Detroit makes Detroit quite a bit better. It probably takes an
inexperienced guy out of their lineup in front of [Miguel] Cabrera,
[Magglio] Ordonez and [Carlos] Guillen.”
White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski: “I look at it as a positive that we got as close as we could to
getting Damon. Knowing him and knowing that he would
not want to leave Florida for Spring Training, to get him to entertain
the idea was a huge step. So, we did everything we could and in our power to get him here. Family
won out. He has four young kids and he didn’t want to uproot and move
them. We like what we have as a club. We added a lot of pieces.”
Now that the White Sox have apparently put a deadline on their dealings with free-agent outfielder Johnny Damon — really, it sounds more like a Sunday deadline for Damon to accept their offer rather than pulling the offer — the long-running saga of where Damon is going to play might finally be reaching an end. And the discussion might start turning to how adding Damon might affect other Tigers on the roster.
Actually, it seems like it already has. And one of the oft-discussed questions being thrown around is how Carlos Guillen would react to being displaced from left field. After all, Guillen was vocal in his desire for an everyday position in interviews with MLB.com last October, once last season ended, and reached the point that Tigers officials scrambled to call him in Venezuela and agent Peter Greenberg in New York to reassure Guillen of his role.
Guillen hasn’t reported yet, so it’s hard to ask him. But here’s my take: I don’t think it’ll be as big of an issue as some might think.
For all the buzz Guillen made with his remarks last fall, including how a player can’t be productive when he’s moving around all the time, there was a timing to it. He had been simmering about it since early September, when he started switch-hitting again despite his shoulder injury so that he could get a chance to play against left-handed pitchers. He was frustrated then, but he didn’t want to be public about it. He wanted to wait until the season was over, because he didn’t want it to be a distraction while the team was in a playoff race.
If this team has a chance to win again — and with Damon, it’s hard to argue that the Tigers aren’t a division contender — I don’t think Guillen wants to be a rotten apple before the season even begins. He understands the situation, and he understands his trade value is next to nothing until he proves he can stay healthy.