Damon wants to return, will explore other options
November 7, 2009
NEW YORK (AP) – Johnny Damon soaked it all in as he shared a float with first-timers Nick Swisher and Jerry Hairston Jr. for the New York Yankees’ championship parade through the Canyon of Heroes on Friday.
The whole scene made him a little wistful.
“It’s good he got to do it in his first year here,” Damon said as the energetic Swisher bounced around beside him after the parade finished in the shadow of City Hall. “It took me my fourth and possibly final year. I am so overjoyed because you don’t know how many times you get this opportunity.”
Damon helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004 and played one more season in Boston before bolting for a $52 million, four-year contract with New York. That deal is up now and the parade is over, leaving the outfielder’s future as one of the major questions facing the champs heading into the offseason.
“I think that’s just the reality of our game,” slugger Alex Rodriguez said. “You hope obviously as many guys come back as possible.”
World Series MVP Hideki Matsui and left-hander Andy Pettitte, who won the clinching game in each playoff series, also are eligible for free agency. The fate of Matsui and Damon could be linked if New York decides to add another big bat in the offseason, and both have said they want to come back.
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“At this point right now, I’d like to just take a little break and just let my body rest,” Matsui said through an interpreter, after his creaky knees limited him to DH duties this year. “I think at some point we’ll pick up some of the offseason topics that need to be worked out and go from there.”
The 37-year-old Pettitte is deciding whether to retire or return for a 16th major league season to try for a sixth World Series ring.
Damon, who turned 36 Thursday, tied a career high with 24 homers this season and hit .281 with nine RBIs in the playoffs. He also had one of the postseason’s most memorable plays, stealing second and third on one pitch during New York’s three-run rally in the ninth inning of Game 4 against the Phillies.
“Obviously, I’m going to have a lot of options,” Damon said, “and I think what it comes down to is what kind of option the Yankees want to give me or not give me. Why wouldn’t I want to come back? We have the best owners in baseball. We have the best team. We have the most revenue and the biggest payroll, so who wouldn’t want to be part of the Yankee tradition? I would like to continue mine and I feel like I can come back and do a great job again.”
Damon left New York’s clinching Game 6 victory Wednesday night with a strained right calf but he called it “probably a week thing” after participating in the parade.
His injury wasn’t the only one overshadowed by the World Series win. After the Yankees wrapped up their 27th title, closer Mariano Rivera said he tweaked his ribs in the ALCS against the Angels, with his ailing side bothering him for the rest of the playoffs.
“It don’t matter now,” Rivera said when asked Friday about how much pain he was in on the mound. “It’s over. Thank God it’s over. It was manageable.”
Rivera tossed 5 1-3 scoreless innings over four appearances in the Series, recording two saves. He had five saves in five opportunities with a 0.56 ERA in the postseason, just adding to his reputation as a big-game pitcher.
“He did what we needed him to do,” reliever Joba Chamberlain said.
A handful of players started cleaning out their lockers at Yankee Stadium after the parade was finished. The name plates had been removed and the carpet was clean after it was soaked with champagne during the celebration after Game 6.
A.J. Burnett gave hugs to Chamberlain and Chien-Ming Wang. Eric Hinske took his folding chair with the Yankee Stadium inaugural season logo.
“It’s definitely a day to celebrate and enjoy,” captain Derek Jeter said.
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.