The 38-year-old outfielder confirmed a minor league contract, the next step before he joins the major league club and doubtless moves into a permanent position in left field. The sides agreed on a $1.25 million contract last week, when the Indians were off to a lethargic start with a team batting average below .200.
But managing director Chris Antonetti asserted he’d been in talks with Damon and his representative Scott Boras long before the Indians opened 1-4. The Indians believe Damon, entering his 17th season and with a magnificent resume of postseason encounter, can preserve them keep climbing in the standings. Sports scores
“We still think he’s got some quality baseball in him,” Antonetti said. Football scores
Damon, who can make another $1.4 million in performance bonuses based on plate appearances, is worked up about joining the Indians — his 7th AL team. He’ll be brought together with previous squad 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 great thing to have. They locked up 1 or 2 players and I know they might be working on a few more, probably. It’s that right mix. A team that’s as youthful as they are and adding a player like Derek Lowe in the offseason, and now adding a fellow like me, hopefully we can give them a lift and some experience.”
Damon is at the team’s year-round training complex in Goodyear, Ariz, getting game prepared 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 requires 277 hits to reach 3,000 in his career, will probably spend a while 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 starting 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 returns, Antonetti said it’s feasible the Indians may carry 5 outfielders — Damon, Brantley, Duncan, Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo — the remainder of this season.
A career .286 hitter, Damon also brings the Indians leadership and playoff experience. As Antonetti announced, Damon is “universally respected” and can act as a coach to a couple of Cleveland’s younger players. But the Indians believe his biggest effect will be carefully despite 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 the 16th consecutive season Damon has played at least 140 games, a feat he shares with only Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson and Pete Rose.
Damon has appeared in 59 postseason games for the Rays, Oakland Athletics, N.Y Yankees and Boston Red Sox.