(UPDATE) Johnny Damon offers to play for Yankees
UPDATE: Feb. 27, 11:45 a.m.
Johnny Damon may be interested in returning to the Yankees, but his prediction the team wouldn’t reciprocate proved correct.
“He’s just not going to fit our needs,” general manager Brian Cashman told reporters in Yankees camp. “It’s the same reason we didn’t bring him in last year. We need somebody who can play the outfield every day.”
Damon didn’t sign with the Indians last season until April 12, but he was an everyday player for them until he was designated for assignment on Aug. 3. The team was well out of playoff contention and wanted to see younger players. Pitcher Derek Lowe was designated for assignment by the Indians at the same time, cleared waivers and ended up being signed by the Yankees. He pitched out of their bullpen.
Cashman reiterated that the team plans to look from within to fill the position vacated by the injured Curtis Granderson.
“We’re going to evaluate what we have in camp,” Cashman said. “I’m not looking outside at this stage. My first response, always, to a loss, is to make sure we don’t have what we need right here in front of us.”
The Yankees need a left fielder and a player who used to fill the role is offering to help.
Johnny Damon is currently a free agent, having played last season in Cleveland. But he’s willing to join the Yankees to replace the hole left by the injury to Curtis Granderson.
“You guys know that I would have tons of interest to go to New York,” Damon told 98.7 ESPN Radio in New York. “But I just don’t think they would be interested. I’m not exactly sure what happened over the years or something. They have had plenty of opportunities and I kept raising my hand, wanting to go back and, you know, hopefully it would be a perfect fit.”
Damon, 39, was let go as a free agent after the 2009 season. He spent that year as an important part of the World Series title team, going 18-of-64 (.281) with two homers and nine RBIs in the playoffs. Damon was reportedly interested in returning to the Yankees, but asked for a three-year deal and had to settle for just one season and $8 million from Detroit. He batted just .271 with eight home runs and went to Tampa Bay the following season, where he struggled even more. He batted .261 for the Rays.
Granderson will be out 10 weeks with a broken forearm, putting his return date sometime in mid-May. Damon went as far as to offer to play for just the month-plus Granderson will miss.
“Have me for six weeks and then send me off on my merry way,” Damon said. “That’s fine.”
The Yankees have few internal options to fill the hole left by Granderson. Melky Mesa and Zoilo Almonte are both on the 40-man roster, but neither is particularly experienced. Veterans Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz are among the non-roster invitees currently in camp.
Damon currently has 2,769 hits, putting the 3,000 plateau within reach in a year or two.
Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.