Damon feels 'bond' with former 'mates

Damon feels 'bond' with former 'mates

DETROIT -- Johnny Damon has nothing but kind words to say about the New York Yankees.

After wearing pinstripes for four seasons and playing an integral part in New York's 2009 World Series championship, Damon doesn't hold a grudge against his former team, which opted not to re-sign the outfielder this past offseason after acquiring Curtis Granderson from the Tigers.

Sure, Damon expected to re-sign with the Yankees. But he's happy to call Detroit his home now.

And in Monday's 5-4 Tigers win over the Yankees in Damon's first meeting with his former team, the veteran showed why he's still a valuable asset to any Major League club. In the fifth inning, he crushed a solo home run over the right-field fence to give the Tigers a two-run lead.

Prior to the game, Damon said he wasn't looking for an "I told you so moment" against his former club. But after the win, he admitted that the home run sure felt good, especially because it was only his second of the season.

"I hope I hit home runs off of every team we face," Damon said. "Like I've said before, this is the fifth team that I've been on, and I'm able to turn the page quickly. Our job is to go out there and play well and beat them."

The Tigers accomplished that mission in the opener of their four-game series with the Yankees at Comerica Park.

Damon may not have tallied as many home runs as he'd like so far this season, but his offensive numbers have been impressive. He owns a .412 on-base percentage, trailing only Miguel Cabrera among Tigers, and through his past 25 games, he's hitting .330.

Damon has hit well against the Yankees throughout his career, batting .275 and recording 10 home runs in 137 games entering Monday.

For Tigers manager Jim Leyland, Damon's success is easy to define, regardless of which jersey he wears. Damon just loves playing baseball.

"To me, Johnny Damon, if the sun comes up in the summertime, if he was a kid, he would be the first guy in somebody's backyard, ready to start the game," Leyland said. "That's just what I think about Johnny Damon. He's a baseball player. He always has been. He loves to play. And like I said, when the kids are out of school in the summertime and you're going to have a pickup game in the corner lot somewhere, Johnny Damon would be the first guy there."

When Damon trotted around the bases after his home run and when he walked in the seventh inning, he sported a big smile and exchanged friendly words with his former teammates.

"There were a few comments here and there," Damon said. "I'm proud of how those guys have played this year. Those guys are always going to be dear to me. Whenever you have a championship team, special things have to happen and a special bond has to be made. That's exactly what we had."

Alex DiFilippo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.