By Evan Anderholm – 3/11/2010
The way the Detroit Tigers’ finished their 2009 season was a tough pill to swallow. In the last month of the season the team gave up a seven-game lead to lose the American League Central crown. In addition Detroit became the first team in baseball history to blow a three game lead in the last four games of the season.
But that was then. This year the Tigers have a different look and a new core group thanks to free agency and trades. They are ready to compete in the AL Central. One of the main actions was signing Johnny Damon to a one-year deal worth $8 million.
Damon comes to the Tigers entering his sixteenth season in the major leagues and with this experience he hopes he hopes to make a big impact on the ball club.
“Hopefully, I can bring some veteran leadership and they can watch the way I enjoy the game and how I hustle, but the main part is my knowledge,” said Damon.
A lot of Damon’s knowledge comes from his many postseason experiences, mainly two World Series Championships, including being a part of the most recent New York Yankees title.
Detroit’s Manager Jim Leyland understands the value in not only Damon’s knowledge but also his pure skill and offensive prowess he can give Detroit’s offense.
“He’s a tremendous ball player and obviously his stock’s pretty good when he’s played on a couple of World Championships and has been one of the best offensive players in baseball for the last several years,” praised Leyland.
Detroit will mark the fifth different team he has played for in his career and at 36, it looks like Damon is not slowing down anytime soon. Last season, Damon had a power surge tying a career high in home runs with 24, along with 82 runs batted in and a .282 batting average.
Damon also has high goals for a Tigers team incorporating some younger talent into the lineup this season.
“The central is wide open and if we can get through this first two months we’ll be okay. The first two months of the schedule are pretty tough but I think we can do it,” said Damon.
Scott Sizemore is Detroit’s rookie second baseman. He is one of the young players expected to see a lot of playing time this season and he has already seen how Damon has affected the locker room during spring training.
“He came in and was a lift in the clubhouse right away. He came in smiling and introduced himself and joking around. So, he’s been good to have in there,” said Sizemore.
Tigers relief pitcher Joel Zumaya agreed, “He brings a lot of life to the locker room. He always has a lot of energy,” said Zumaya.
It is safe to say that although Damon is currently in Detroit for a year, he has one thing on his mind and that’s “hopefully another championship,” said Damon.