Damon: 'I'm still the same guy'

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Damon: 'I'm still the same guy'

BOSTON Johnny Damon sat in the visitor's dugout at Fenway Park before Thursday night's game against his former Red Sox club, mohawk intact and sleeveless t-shirt that read, "There's no safety on these guns," with arrows pointing to his arms.

Since his final season season with the Red Sox in 2005, Damon hasn't changed at all. He even pointed that out himself.

"I'm still the nice, big-smiling guy who still enjoys what he's doing," he said before leading off and playing left field for the Cleveland Indians on Thursday night.

Like his previous returns to Fenway, Damon expects to hear some boos. He also expects some to remember that he was a major part of the Red Sox first championship in 86 years.

"I think there's fans out there who do cheer for me and who do really enjoy what I've brought to the table here," he said. "But fans are going to boo me. I think Reggie Jackson said it best, 'Fans don't boo nobodies.' And they know that I can go out there and do some damage and help my team win.

"I get booed everywhere, so, I'm used to it. I've been loved and hated everywhere, but I'm still the same guy."

Damon signed with the Indians in April. He's gone 5-for-30 with zero home runs and two RBI in eight games (all in the month of May). That's a .167 average. And he admits he's not swinging the bat well. So right now, 3,000 hits seems like a tall task, even just 272 hits away from the milestone.

"If it happens, it happens," said Damon. "With the way I'm swinging the bat right now, it'll probably take a good 10 years."

Damon doesn't know where that 3,000th hit will take place, if it does happen. But he doesn't seem to be ready to call it quits anytime soon.

"I was sitting at home, staying in shape, hitting every now and then," he said, while acknowledging that he never was approached by the Red Sox. "But yeah, I was ready to answer anybody's call. I knew if I sat at home for a little bit longer, I just may not leave. But I didn't want to have any regrets. And when they called me, I thought about it for a couple of days. And then I jumped on it. I didn't want to sit around a year from now, saying what could have been or should have happened."

Damon said he was never approached by the Red Sox about a contract for this season. And while he reminisced before Thursday's game, he also said that playing for Boston felt like a long time ago.

"It seems like it's been a while," said Damon. "We're on seven years now? Yup, seven, and it seems like a long time ago. I know a lot of players that have come and gone since then.

"It's strange, especially since I left this team and how many more teams I ended up playing for. I never really envisioned this, on my seventh team now. But you've got to do what you've got to do. I wanted to keep on playing, and playing brought me to Cleveland this year. And hopefully we can keep playing well. And hopefully I can get my bat going."

Damon's Indians enter the series with a two-game lead over the Detroit Tigers for first place in the American League Central. Their 17 wins is five more than what the Red Sox currently have in the win column.

He said he's not surprised with the way the last-place Red Sox have started, because he knows they'll turn it around in a 162-game season.

"They're notoriously a slow-starting team," said Damon. "Everybody knows they're a good team. They just have to find their way. Hopefully it's not during this weekend. But, they have talent there. So, it's just a matter of time."

As for the rest of his time with the Indians, Damon knows that once Grady Sizemore returns from back surgery in June, there will be a battle for playing time in the outfield. He hopes he can improve his .167 batting average before then, so that he won't be on the outside looking in.

"Hopefully I'm doing well enough so I can warrant to still get some playing time and play. But I also know the dynamic that Grady Sizemore does bring. And we'll really have to wait and see. I'm sure if I'm hitting like I am right now, there's really not too many places to go.

"But that being said, when Grady does get in the mix, I think it can be a nice rotation. Right now, I'm playing a lot out there . . . When Grady does get here, it will be interesting to see what happens."

Miller callup to Red Sox 'a dream come true' after remarkable journey

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Miller callup to Red Sox 'a dream come true' after remarkable journey

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - For any player, reaching the big leagues is an accomplishment in its own right. For infielder Mike Miller, summoned by the Red Sox from Pawtucket Monday, the callup couldn't be more improbable.

Start with the fact that Miller, listed officially five-foot-nine, is, in reality, five-foot-six - tops. Add in the fact that he was 11th round pick as a senior from Cal Poly Tech and you begin to understand how much of a longshot Miller is.

Then, add in the fact that injuries conspired to have him miss almost all of 2013 and half of 2014, and Miller's journey is truly a remarkable one.

All of which made it all the more difficult for Miller to keep his emotions under wraps late Sunday night. Miller was riding a bus outside Rochester, N.Y. with the rest of the Pawtucket Red Sox when manager Kevin Boles, sitting a few rows ahead of him on the bus, sent Miller an email informing him that he was going to the big leagues.

But the email contained a caveat from Boles.

"He didn't want to make a big commotion of it on the bus,'' said Miller, "so he told me to keep it quiet and don't show a lot of emotion, but congratulations. It was hard because you've got all your friends on the bus and you want to talk to them about it and share your excitement. But at the same time, you respect the manager's wishes, but there were (corresponding) moves to make and he didn't want it getting out because someone else might not know what's going on.

"It was hard (keep quiet), but you do what you're told.''

Between making phone calls to family members and friends and the natural excitement he felt, Miller got virtually no sleep before a 4:30 a.m. trip to the airport. But sleep could wait on a night like that.

"It's a dream come true,'' said Miller. "I wasn't expecting it -- at all. So to get the opportunity to come up here and play at the highest level is a dream come true. I started my Red Sox career with Mookie Betts in Lowell, so it's cool to catch up to some of those guys and see them a few years later. I'm just really happy and excited to be here.''

Miller's numbers aren't eye-popping at the minor league level. He was .256 with seven doubles in 46 games, and he's not likely to stay with the team past Friday, when the Sox are expecting Brock Holt to return.

But the Sox needed another infielder to get back to a four-man bench, and Miller was the consensus choice. For however long his callup lasts, he'll enjoy it, especially considering what he's overcome.

"You're not a bonus baby,'' he said. "But at the same time, you just go out and compete. When you're on the field, you don't think anybody is better than you. It doesn't matter what round they were (selected) or whether they're a high school guy or (drafted as a) junior or senior. So when you put the cleats on, you play to the best of your ability and see where that takes you.''

The injuries in 2013 (torn quad) and 2014 (broken hammate bone) only fueled his desire.

"There were some tough moments, some frustration over not being able to play,'' he said. "Not being able to control things (was tough). But it also teaches you some things about patience and there's that appreciation that when you are healthy, make sure you go out and play hard every day. If you take the right mindset, you learn from it and get better.''

Miller can play all over the infield. He played shortstop in college, but has mostly played third and second in the minors.

"I've been acclimated to all three,'' said Miller. "I work hard with our instructors to understand all the nuances of all the positions, so I'm comfortable at any of them. Wherever I get the chance to play, I just want to help the team win that night.''

For however long it lasts, Miller will savor it.

"I couldn't ask for a better feeling,'' said Miller. "There are some odds against you -- senior, smaller guy, not a big-time college program. So I've had kind of fight my whole career to keep moving, keep moving. To get here is a really good feeling.''

 

Holt (concussion) still not symptom-free, target weekend series vs. Angels

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Holt (concussion) still not symptom-free, target weekend series vs. Angels

ST. PETERSBURG, FL. - Brock Holt's return to the Red Sox is going to have to wait a little longer.

The Sox had held out some hope that Holt might be ready to rejoin the club here for the start of a three-game series. But Holt, who is recovering from a concussion suffered in early May, is still not symptom-free while on a rehab assignment at Triple A Pawtucket.

The target now is for Holt to return Friday when the Red Sox begin a homestand that will take them up to the All-Star break.

"He'll come off and hopefully join us for the weekend series with the Angels,'' said John Farrell. "(He had a) good day (Sunday), but just didn't feel like he's ready to take that next step, so we have to respect that. He'll get full number of at-bats (Tuesday) and Wednesday, before we get back home.''

Farrell said Holt is still experiencing some post-concussion symptoms as he plays in games.

"This is a very unique (case),'' said Farrell. "We've talked a lot about his form of a concussion and we felt like the best way for him to be capable of being back with us is to push forward and stress the intensity, the level of play. Because the symptoms aren't going to go away just by sitting around. This is a matter of being active and being aggressive with it, so hopefully everything calibrates within his system. That's the recommendation of the medical staff.''

Farrell said Holt continues to feel some imbalance and light dizziness.

"There are those slight, disoriented feelings that's we working through,'' Farrell said. ''We're talking about the inner ear speaking to the brain and that's only going to continue to improve but stressing it -- not by sitting back. The fact that he was set out on a rehab assignment with some of those symptoms was part of overall recommendation.

"I wish we could say this is a straight-line end result from a timing standpoint, but we're seeing that it's not.''

 

Monday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Sox hope to extend Tampa Bay's misery

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Monday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Sox hope to extend Tampa Bay's misery

The Red Sox may be stumbling through the month of June, but they're flying high compared to their opponent tonight.

The Sox are in St. Petersburg, Fla., to take on the free-falling Rays, losers of 11 straight. They'll be sending Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound in hopes of continuing Tampa Bay's misery, at least for the next three games.

The lineups:

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Bryce Brentz LF
Sandy Leon C
Marco Hernandez 3B
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Eduardo Rodriguez P

RAYS
Logan Forsythe 2B
Tim Beckham SS
Evan Longoria 3B
Logan Morrison 1B
Desmond Jennings CF
Oswaldo Arcia RF
Taylor Motter LF
Nick Franklin DH
Curt Casali C
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Blake Snell P